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.