Montreal, South Shore commuters brace for traffic hell with La Fontaine tunnel lanes closing for 3 years

Until fall of 2025, 2 Montreal-bound lanes to stay open, 1 for drivers going to South Shore

Montreal-area commuters heading to and from the South Shore will need to be creative, patient or both as the province’s Transport Ministry gets ready to shut down three lanes in the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel for at least three years. 

One of the tunnel’s tubes will close completely until late 2025. The other tube’s three lanes will need to serve both southbound and northbound drivers: Two lanes will remain open for drivers going to Montreal and only one will be available for the drive to the South Shore.

The exact date of the closures should be officially announced in just a few weeks.

In August, the ministry announced that the tunnel was in pretty bad shape and repairing it would take more time and money than expected. The initial estimate was off by about $900 million. 

WATCH | Take public transit or sit in traffic forever? Commuters weigh in on lane closures: 

How’s traffic? Montreal commuters have some choice words ahead of tunnel closure

15 hours ago

Duration 1:01We asked commuters how they feel about the upcoming lane closures in the La Fontaine Tunnel. Their answers? Not great.

Every day, about 120,000 vehicles drive through the 55-year-old tunnel. About 15,000 of those vehicles are heavy trucks.

“I’m expecting hell for anyone trying to cross the the Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel to go [to] the South Shore,” said Pierre Aubin, who owns several trucking companies in the area, including Les Transports Audec.

On Wednesday morning, a CBC News reporter accompanied Aubin in his truck during a morning round trip using the tunnel.

On the way back to the South Shore, Aubin’s truck could barely move.

A man is sitting behind in a truck.
On Wednesday morning, it took 45 minutes for Pierre Aubin, who owns several trucking companies, to exit the tunnel and reach the city’s South Shore. In that time, he travelled less than ten kilometres. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

It took 45 minutes to go from the Galeries d’Anjou area, in Montreal’s east end, to the tunnel’s exit — less than 10 kilometres.

“And there are three lanes open in the tunnel. So try to imagine going down to one lane,” he said.

The ministry has already started mitigation measures, including hundreds of parking spaces in Varennes, Beloeil and Boucherville as well as buses to get those drivers to the Radisson Metro station in Montreal’s east end.

Once half the tunnel shuts down next month, riding on those buses will be free.

A traffic sign is posted.
The wait time to get into the La Fontaine tunnel is expected to go up significantly as of next month. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Much longer travel times, group estimates

The effects of the three-year repair job will be felt across the Montreal area.

Drivers in Montreal neighbourhoods such as Mercier, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Anjou are already finding themselves stuck in a traffic standstill due to the work already underway in and around the tunnel. The tunnel is also a link to Highways 25, 20 and  Route 132.

And although the Transport Ministry has strongly recommended drivers ditch their cars and opt for public transit, more drivers are expected to use the Jacques-Cartier bridge, which will increase the amount of traffic in the eastern portion of downtown Montreal.

Longer travel times and fuel costs will have “significant repercussions” on businesses on the South Shore, according to Alain Chevrier, the president of the region’s chamber of commerce during an interview with Radio-Canada’s Tout un Matin.

“We’ve measured [and estimate] that people coming from Montreal that will cross onto the South Shore will have a travel time that could be three to six times longer than normal,” said Chevrier, who says the travel time for people going into Montreal could double.