This 2002 photo shows the southbound Vallee des Forts Autoroute (A-35) at EXIT 11 (QC 223) in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. This exit, which features double flyover ramps, likely will be re-designated EXIT 48 upon the extension of A-35 south to the Quebec-Vermont border in 2013. (Photo by Douglas Kerr, www.gribblenation.com.)
PLANNED AS A LINK FROM MONTREAL TO BOSTON: Autoroute 35 was conceived in the early 1960's as a critical link between Montreal and the Monteregie region as well as a bypass around the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu area. With its proposed connection to I-89 at the Saint-Armand border crossing, A-35 was to provide access to northern New England and the Boston area. For this reason, A-35 originally was called the "New England Autoroute;" today it is named for the colonial-era garrisons that dot the Richelieu Valley.
Work began on A-35 upon completion of the Eastern Townships Autoroute (A-10) in 1964. By 1966, about 16 kilometers (10 miles) of four-lane freeway connecting EXIT 18 (A-10) in Chambly with EXIT 3 (QC 104) in Iberville were opened to traffic. The final three kilometers (two miles) of A-35 south of EXIT 3 to the QC 133 merge were completed in 1967. Completion of the entire length of A-35 had been scheduled for that year in time for Expo 67, but the province instead focused on expediting construction of autoroutes in the immediate Montreal area.
For many years after it opened, A-35 had at-grade intersections with St. Raphael Road and St. Andre Road in Saint-Luc. These intersections were closed in 1999; the St. Andre Road intersection was converted into a partial-cloverleaf interchange (EXIT 14), while St. Raphael Road was dead-ended on either side of A-35.
According to the Ministère des Transports du Québec (MTQ), A-35 carries approximately 30,000 vehicles per day (AADT) in the immediate area of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, but only about 20,000 vehicles per day near its northern terminus at A-10 (where A-35 transitions to Frechette Boulevard en route to downtown Chambly) and 15,000 near its southern terminus at the QC 133 merge in Iberville. The A-35 designation is multiplexed with QC 133 for six kilometers (four miles) from the southern terminus north to EXIT 6 (QC 133 North), and with QC 104 for eight kilometers (five miles) from EXIT 3 (QC 104 East) to EXIT 11 (QC 104 West).
AN UNDERPOWERED CONNECTION AT A-10: The original Eastern Townships Autoroute was a toll road, and to accommodate a toll plaza, the interchange between A-10 and A-35 was not built as a traditional cloverleaf. Instead, the interchange was built as follows:
Collector-distributor (C/D) roads were built along A-10 to get motorists to pay tolls upon exiting for A-35 / Frechette Boulevard; this was the first toll plaza on A-10 heading east from Montreal. (The tolls on A-10 were removed in 1985.) One C/D road is for traffic leaving eastbound A-10 toward southbound A-30 and northbound Frechette Boulevard, while the corresponding C/D is for traffic entering westbound A-10 from northbound A-35 and southbound Frechette Boulevard.
There is no direct connection from northbound A-35 to eastbound A-10. Motorists bound for eastbound A-10 must exit at EXIT 18E, then turn left onto Rue Brunelle for the ramp to eastbound A-10.
There is no direct connection from westbound A-10 to southbound A-35. Motorists bound for southbound A-35 from westbound A-10 must use a shared ramp for Frechette Boulevard, then make two left turns at at-grade intersections before heading onto southbound A-35.
There is no direct connection from southbound A-35 / Frechette Boulevard to eastbound A-10. Motorists bound for eastbound A-10 from southbound A-35 / Frechette Boulevard must exit at EXIT 18E, then turn left onto Rue Brunelle for the ramp to eastbound A-10.
NEW EXIT NUMBERS FOR THE EXISTING A-35: Upon the scheduled completion of the A-35 extension south to the Quebec-Vermont border in late 2013, the extended autoroute will have the existing interchanges renumbered as follows:
This circa 1966 photo shows the Vallee des Forts Autoroute (A-35) nearing completion at EXIT 9 (Industrial Boulevard / Pierre Caisse Boulevard). (Photos from the Archives Nationale de Quebec / "Bilan de Siecle," University of Sherbrooke.)
COMPLETING THE LINK TO I-89: After the initial section of A-35 opened in 1967, the Ministère de la Voirie du Québec (MVQ), the predecessor agency to the MTQ, continued to purchase rights-of-way for the proposed extension to Vermont. However, stricter provincial and Federal environmental regulations in the 1970's and the rise of Parti Québecois (PQ) after the 1976 elections formally ended many stillborn autoroute projects and left half-completed projects like A-35 in limbo.
As an interim measure, most of QC 133 was widened to three lanes: there is one travel lane in each direction, with the middle lane reserved for passing. Every two to three kilometers, the direction in which passing is permitted changes, which has been the cause of numerous head-on collisions over the years. Growing congestion along QC 133 - volume along the route has grown at an annual rate of 2% to 3%, with much of the growth coming from trucks (mostly tractor-trailers) - has compounded this problem. Andre Dandavino, a coroner from St.-Jean-sur-Richelieu, testified before provincial leaders that many of the fatal accidents on QC 133 over the years would not have occurred if A-35 had been built.
In 2001, the MTQ revisited the issue of the A-35 extension and commissioned new studies amid growing congestion on the QC 133 corridor south to I-89 in Vermont. The province held public hearings in late 2005 and early 2006, finding mostly favorable reception to A-35, though there remained concerns from (1) farmers whose land would be severed by the new freeway and (2) environmentalists worried about potential damage to Lake Champlain and the surrounding flood plain.
The MTQ proposed the following alignment (from north to south) in its 2008 final environmental impact statement for A-35:
Beginning in Iberville, A-35 shifts from a southerly to a southeasterly direction as it heads toward St. Alexander. The current mainline A-35 shifts southwesterly to its southern terminus to join QC 133 (Chemin de la Grande-Ligne). These existing carriageways will form the new EXIT 37 ramps from southbound A-35 to southbound QC 133, and from northbound QC 133 to northbound A-35.
At St. Alexander, there will be a partial cloverleaf interchange at EXIT 27 with QC 227. Ramps would be built in the north and south quadrants. (The original plan called for construction of a diamond interchange with QC 227.)
Around kilometer-post 26, the alignment of A-35 shifts back to the south.
Near St. Sebastian, there will be a partial cloverleaf interchange at new EXIT 15 with QC 133. Ramps will be built in the northeast and southwest quadrants. (The original plan called for construction of a diamond interchange with QC 133.)
Around kilometer-post 13, the alignment of A-35 shifts to the southeast.
A new A-35 bridge over the Brochets River will be built near kilometer-post 9. The MTQ originally proposed a three-span bridge for the Brochets River crossing, but adopted a revised design that includes an additional span, retaining walls, and box culverts on the northern bridge approach to limit the impact to wildlife.
A-35 shifts gradually back to a southerly shift between kilometer-posts 9 and 7 as it follows the shoreline of Lake Champlain. The revised design calls for a narrowing of the right-of-way to 75 meters (250 feet) from the original width of 90 meters (300 feet). It also recommends construction of a grade separation near kilometer-post 8 for agricultural use.
At St. Armand, there will be a partial cloverleaf interchange at new EXIT 6 with QC 133 (Champlain Road). Ramps in the northeast quadrant will be extended east past QC 133 to extend to Chemin du Molin.
Beginning at kilometer-post 6 just past the Champlain Road exit, A-35 will follow an upgraded four-lane roadbed along the existing four-lane-divided QC 133 to the Quebec-Vermont border. New slip ramps will be built at new EXIT 3 (St. Armand Road), and the St. Armand border crossing will be expanded. (Plans for a northbound rest area at kilometer-post 5 were abandoned; however, the MTQ has reserved the right to use the area for a truck inspection station.)
The initial 23.7 kilometers (14.7 miles) from the current terminus in Iberville south to QC 133 in St. Sebastian is slated for completion in late 2011, while the remaining 14.3 kilometers (8.9 miles) south from St. Sebastian to St. Armand is scheduled to be open to traffic by late 2013. Construction of the C$257 million autoroute (cost based on Infrastructure Canada estimates) would require the condemnation of eight residential properties.
Completion of four-lane A-35 would shave 7.6 kilometers (4.7 miles) and between 10 and 15 minutes from the trip between Iberville and the Quebec-Vermont border. By 2020, the MTQ expects the A-35 extension to handle between 10,000 and 20,000 vehicles per day, an increase of 30% (near St. Armand) to 70% (near Iberville) from 2000 levels.
This map shows the route of the proposed A-35 extension from Iberville (St.-Jean-sur-Richelieu) south to I-89 in Vermont, including the location of planned interchanges. (Map by Ministère des Transports du Québec and Genivar, Inc.)
A REBUILT A-10 / A-35 INTERCHANGE AND WIDENED A-10: In conjunction with the A-35 "missing link" project scheduled for completion by 2013, a rebuilt A-10 / A-35 interchange complete with two-lane, high-speed ramps (A-10 eastbound to A-35 southbound, and A-35 northbound to A-10 westbound) should be built. A-10 also should be widened from EXIT 11 (A-30) east to EXIT 22 (A-35).
SOURCES: Completion of Highway 35 Between Saint-John-sur-Richelieu and the US Border: Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and Ministère des Transports du Québec (2005); "New Road Needed" by Andre Dandavino, The Montreal Gazette (5/18/2004); "Coroner Favors A-35 Extension" by Stephane Tremblay, Le Journal de Montreal (7/06/2008); "What Construction Holiday?" by David Johnston, The Montreal Gazette (8/02/2008); Completion of Highway 35 Between Saint-John-sur-Richelieu and the US Border: Final Environmental Impact Statement, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and Ministère des Transports du Québec (2008); Genivar, Inc.; Infrastructure Canada; Félix-Mathieu Bégin; Richard Dupuis.
A-35 shield by Wikipedia. I-89 shield by Ralph Herman. Lightpost photos by Douglas Kerr.