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This 2006 photo shows the northbound Chomedey Autoroute (A-13) at EXIT 6 (A-40 / Metropolitan Autoroute) in Saint-Laurent (Montreal), just north of Pierre Trudeau (Dorval) International Airport. The blue guide sign on the right dates back to the 1970s, when the then-toll expressway was built. (Photo by Laura Siggia Anderson.)

THE AIRPORT-TO-AIRPORT AUTOROUTE: The growing popularity of the Laurentian Autoroute (A-15) after it opened in the late 1950's prompted Quebec officials to consider a north-south relief route through Montreal Island and Laval (Ile de Jesus). In the early 1960's, Montreal city officials and the Ministère de la Voirie du Québec (MVQ) proposed an expressway connecting A-520 (Cote de Liesse Autoroute) near Trudeau (Dorval) International Airport with A-640 (North Belt Autoroute).

The proposed route, which was designated A-13 in 1966, was amended later to provide a southerly connection to A-20 (Veterans Memorial Autoroute). In order to prevent competition with the tolled Laurentian Autoroute nearby, the proposed Chomedey Autroute - named for the French military officer who founded Montreal - was to be a toll road financed and built jointly between the Federal government (which paid 25 percent of the cost) and the provincial government (which paid the remainder).

The 1969 decision by provincial and Federal officials to build Mirabel International Airport on 97,000 acres in St. Scholastique, a farming community 60 kilometers (37 miles) northwest of Montreal, provided an important catalyst for the construction of A-13. The proposed autoroute was seen as a crucial link between Trudeau and Mirabel airports as it was to traverse the grounds of both facilities. (At the time Mirabel Airport was proposed, it was to replace Trudeau Airport eventually.)

BUILDING A-13: Work began on the C$130 million Chomedey Autroute on July 27, 1973. The original 22 kilometers (14 miles) were built with six through lanes (three in each direction) from EXIT 2 (Rue Louis Ames) to the current northern terminus at EXIT 22 (A-640) in Boisbriand; there are four lanes from EXIT 2 south to EXIT 1 (A-20) in Lachine. Opposing traffic flows are separated by a wide grassy barrier through Laval and Boisbriand, and by a concrete ("Jersey") barrier through Montreal Island.

A-13 was built with collector-distributor (C/D) roads through the entire length of Laval, as well as in the area of the A-640 interchange. Construction crews also built a cut-and-cover tunnel for the freeway beneath the eastern buffer zone of Trudeau Airport.

There were two toll plazas built as part of the original construction in Laval and Boisbriand. Evidence of the former toll plazas exists at the southbound Laval weigh station (at the south end of Laval) and the U-turn in Boisbriand.

The Chomedey Autoroute was completed on October 4, 1975, the same day that Mirabel Airport opened (though the link to that airport never was completed). The MTQ collected tolls on A-13 until 1985, at which time the toll plazas were removed from the now-free autoroute.

According to the MTQ, A-13 carries as many as 140,000 vehicles per day (AADT) between A-40 in Montreal and A-440 in Laval; traffic volume declines to about 40,000 vehicles per day near the northern terminus at A-640 in Boisbriand. Between 2000 and 2003, the MTQ rebuilt nine kilometers (or five and one-half miles) of A-13 through the length of Laval.

This 2006 photo shows the northbound Chomedey Autoroute (A-13) at EXIT 12 in Laval. Collector-distributor (C/D) roads serve Samson Boulevard and St. Martin Boulevard (QC 148). This section of A-13 was rebuilt during the early 2000's. (Photo by Laura Siggia Anderson.)

THE UNBUILT EXTENSION TO MIRABEL: As planned in 1969, A-13 was to extend 25 kilometers (or 15.5 miles) north from A-640 to A-50 (Maurice Richard Autoroute) along the western boundary of the new Mirabel International Airport. In preparation for the airport's opening, the Federal government set aside right-of-way for the A-13 extension along the airport's western edge.

Although Mirabel Airport opened to air traffic in 1975, it remained underutilized for many years because of not only the much longer distance to downtown Montreal relative to Trudeau Airport, but also the growing importance of Toronto's Pearson International Airport for overseas flights. In addition, Mirabel Airport - unlike Trudeau Airport - was designed for supersonic aircraft such as the Concorde, which never caught on with the public; this likely accelerated Mirabel's ultimate demise as a passenger facility.

The postponement of A-13 - and by extension, the lack of development at Mirabel Airport - was mired in the bickering between Quebec City and Ottawa. In 1982, Michel Clair, then the transport minister for the province, offered the Federal government full control of A-13, but only on the condition that Ottawa build a landing facility to serve a nearly empty industrial park nearby. Not surprisingly, the Federal government rejected this proposal.

In what appeared a last-ditch effort to save Mirabel Airport, the MTQ and the Federal government reached an agreement in 1988 to build the northern C$78 million extension of A-13 to Mirabel. By 1994, its cost had risen to C$128 million. That year, Paul Mercier, a former Blainville mayor who later served as a member in the House of Commons, reiterated the case for extending A-13 as follows:

Dorval (Trudeau) is the point of origin of all regular flights within Canada and to the United States, while Mirabel is the boarding point for all other destinations. A passenger traveling from Quebec City to Paris will have to transfer. That is normal, but what is not quite as normal is the fact that this person has to ride, from Dorval to Mirabel, in a shuttle traveling on Highways 15, 640, and 13 and then on Mirabel Blvd. Commuting time: 40 minutes, plus waiting time. It is absolutely absurd.

To remedy the problem, it was suggested that Mirabel be closed down and all flights shifted to Dorval. What a brilliant idea! You eliminate one of the airports, thereby eliminating the need to connect them. Rather than curing the disease, it would be simpler to get rid of the patient!

A simple solution would be to extend Highway 13 another 25 kilometers to the north. It was agreed a long time ago that the costs - that is to say $78 million in 1988 dollars - were to be shared equally by Ottawa and Quebec, but nothing has been done since. Of course, for a long time, the two governments accused one another of refusing to cooperate, stating that a check could be made the following morning if only the other side would stop dragging its feet. I guess that is what you call profitable federalism!

Although all passenger air traffic had shifted back to Tradeau Airport by 2004, some insisted that the A-13 extension would promote the development of Mirabel Airport as an industrial zone. Mario Laframboise, a former mayor of Notre Dame-de-la-Paix who later was elected to the House of Commons, had the following to say about the A-13 extension:

Now that it has been done - now that there will be no more passenger traffic - I would like the Liberal government to understand that in order to promote development of the biggest land area belonging to the federal government within Quebec's borders, it must promote its industrial development by completing Highways 13 and 50. That is the only way. Without the highways, there can be no industrial park development.

As a former mayor and former president of the Union des Municipalités du Québec, I can tell the House that it is impossible to do industrial planning without highways. That is a choice the Liberal party made: not to develop Highways 13 and 50. Now it has achieved its goal, closing Mirabel. There is no more passenger traffic there.

However, would it be possible - not in this budget, because after close examination it appears that there is no money for Highways 13 and 50 - but perhaps in the future, in order to be able to promote the development of Mirabel? One day, air traffic must return to Mirabel and follow the pattern of all the other industrialized countries, that is, concentrating airport operations outside major urban centers. It is becoming increasingly dangerous to have airport facilities in major urban centers.

In Quebec, we are lucky to have this magnificent airport just 45 kilometers from the urban core of Montreal. We must be able to protect it, with all the investments that are necessary, including completion of Highways 13 and 50, so as to promote its development and, of course, we must provide rail access.

The MTQ still has the A-13 extension from A-640 north to A-50 in its long-term plans. However, given the closure of Mirabel Airport and recent improvements to A-15 (Laurentian Autoroute), it appears unlikely that the A-13 extension to Mirabel will ever be built.

AND AN EXTENSION TO THE SOUTH SHORE: In 1972, the MTQ announced plans for an eight-kilometer (five-mile) extension of A-13 south of A-20 through Lachine, across the St. Lawrence River, and ending at the western edge of the Kahnawake Indian Reservation on the South Shore. The proposed A-13 extension, which was to have had six lanes, was to have been 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) west of the Honore Mercier Bridge and its approaches. The A-13 terminus would have connected to A-30 (South Belt Autoroute / Autoroute de l'Acier), which at the time was proposed along the QC 132 alignment through the Kahnawake Reservation.

Not surprisingly, the Kahnawake Indians opposed the planned extension, which would have required the expropriation of 20 hectares (50 acres) of Indian land. Making plans more difficult for the MTQ was that Indian land acquisitions had to go through the federal government.

In Lachine, a community group of 3,000 citizens, "Action Autoroute 13," organized to protest the proposed alignment through the Grovehill Golf Course. The group proposed an alternate route along 32nd Avenue, which is an arterial between A-20 and Victoria Street, but the MTQ countered that the alternative alignment would send bridge traffic to the south directly into a residential community in the Kahnawake Reservation.

The MTQ had shelved the proposed A-13 extension by the end of 1973. Ironically, the Grovehill Golf Course, which "Action Autoroute 13" had saved, ultimately fell victim to bulldozers in 1994 with the development of the Parc du Village St.-Louis townhouse community.

SOURCES: "New Road Building Outlined in Detail," The Montreal Gazette (3/27/1969); "A Study of the Existing Montreal Expressway System" by Dominic Mignogna, McGill University (1969); "Lachine Residents Rally To Halt Highway Extension" by Mary Janigan, The Montreal Gazette (8/08/1972); "Jetport Link Alternate Proposed," The Montreal Gazette (9/14/1972); "Caughnawaga Road Plan Not Dead Yet--Quebec" by Luana Parkway, The Montreal Gazette (3/22/1973); "Testimony of Paul Mercier," Daily Hansard, House of Commons, Parliament Canada (4/27/1994); "Field of Broken Dreams" by Claude Arpin, The Montreal Gazette (2/24/1996); "City of Lost Dreams: A Haunting Look Back at the Montreal That Never Was" by Kristian Gravenor, The Montreal Mirror (10/26/2000); "Testimony of Mario Laframboise," Daily Hansard, House of Commons, Parliament Canada (4/01/2004); "Mirabel: The Airport Where the Future Is Past" by Sergio Ortega, AirOdyssey.Net (2005); Association des Architectes Paysagistes du Canada; Genivar, Inc.; Ministere des Transports du Quebec; Steve Alpert; Félix Mathieu-Bégin; Stephane Dumas.

  • A-13 shield by Wikipedia.
  • Lightpost photos by Douglas Kerr.



  • A-13 (Steve Alpert)




  • Chomedey Autoroute (A-13)

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