This 2006 photo shows the eastbound A-640 at EXIT 22 (QC 117) in Blainville. The province plans to rebuild a short section of A-640 between EXIT 20 (A-15 / Laurentian Autoroute) and EXIT 22. (Photo by Laura Siggia Anderson.)
MONTREAL'S NORTHERN BYPASS: In the late 1950's, the Montreal Metropolitan Council proposed a northern bypass of the Montreal-Laval metropolitan area as part of a comprehensive highway plan. The proposed autoroute was to bypass which eventually would become A-40 along the north shore of the Riviere des Mille Iles from Hudson to Charlemagne. A new bridge over Lac des Deux-Montagnes between Dorion and Oka was part of the original plan.
Work on the four-lane autoroute began in 1959 as a spur of the Laurentian Autoroute (A-15) and progressed as follows:
1961: EXIT 8 (Boulevard des Promenades) in Deux-Montagnes to EXIT 20 (A-15 / Laurentian Autoroute) in Blainville
1966: autoroute was designated A-640 denoting its status as a bypass of A-40
1972: EXIT 38 (QC 337 / Gascon Road) in Terrebonne to eastern terminus at QC 344 / Chemin Royal (signaled intersection) in Charlemagne
1974: EXIT 20 in Blainville to EXIT 38 in Terrebonne
1976: western terminus at QC 344 / Oka Road (signaled intersection) in Oka to EXIT 8 in Deux-Montagnes
According to the Ministere des Transports du Quebec (MTQ), traffic volumes on A-640 range from 10,000 vehicles per day (AADT) near the western terminus in Oka to 90,000 vehicles per day on the short stretch between EXIT 16 (A-13 / Chomedey Autoroute) and EXIT 20 (A-15).
CHANGES FOR INTERCHANGES: In 2006, the MTQ announced formal plans to rebuild A-640 between EXIT 20 (A-15) and EXIT 22 (QC 117 / Cure-Labelle Boulevard) in Blainville. Six years in the planning, the expansion proposal is part of a larger C$89 million to build the A-15 / A-640 interchange and expand A-15. The province plans to reduce weaving by extending collector-distributor (C/D) lanes between EXIT 20 and EXIT 22. Work on the expansion began in 2007 and is scheduled for completion in 2011.
Plans in the intermediate term call for an expansion of A-640 to six lanes (from four) between EXIT 16 (A-13) and EXIT 20 (A-15). With a northerly extension of A-13 now unlikely to be built, officials believe a widening of A-640 -- which was estimated to cost C$23 million in 2001 -- is one way to relieve congestion between Trudeau Airport and the Laurentian Mountains.
A SECRET ENDING: At the end of the autoroute in Charlemagne, the A-640 designation extends for about two kilometers (about 1.2 miles) east from St. Charles Road to QC 138 (Chemin Royal). The four-lane boulevard does not have A-640 signs (though it does share the boulevard with QC 344 for a short distance), but the roadway and "autoroute-style" lighting are maintained by the MTQ.
This 2007 photo shows the eastbound A-640 at EXIT 28 (QC 335) in Bois-des-Fillon. Only a few of the ramps and overpasses built for this interchange are used today as the A-19 extension remains unbuilt to this day, but an ongoing traffic study may see A-19 extended to this interchange in the next decade. (Photo by Laura Siggia Anderson.)
A BRIDGE ACROSS LAC DES DEUX-MONTAGNES: The original A-640 plans for called a new bridge connecting Oka with A-40 (near EXIT 26) in Dorion, where connections nearby would provide access to A-540 and A-20. The autoroute's right-of-way would have gone through a provincial park and possibly Indian lands. Proposals to extend A-640 across Lac des Deux-Montagnes have been floated over the years, particularly amid growing congestion on A-40. Given the challenges of building highways through parkland in North America, and after the 1990 standoff at Oka over a proposed golf course that shut down the Mercier Bridge (QC 138), a westerly extension of A-640 appears unlikely.
AND A NEW ST. LAWRENCE CROSSING: In 2003, a commission headed by noted Quebec engineer Roger Nicolet recommended the construction of a new link between Montreal and the South Shore. The report, entitled, "Mieux se déplacer entre Montréal et la Rive-Sud" ("Improving Mobility Between Montreal and the South Shore"), advanced plans for a new St. Lawrence River bridge connecting the A-40 / A-640 interchange in Charlemagne and A-30 (at EXIT 136) near Varennes. In conjunction with a future link across Lac des Deux-Montagnes, the extended A-640 would form a true northern bypass in the same way that A-30 (Autoroute de l'Acier / South Belt Autoroute) would function as Montreal's southern bypass upon its completion in 2009.
To minimize right-of-way acquisition, A-640 would veer to the south of the current terminus at QC 344 on its way to the new St. Lawrence River crossing. Right-of-way acquisition would be less of a problem on the South Shore because the approach would be built through farmland.
Transit advocates and environmental groups criticized the Nicolet Commission report, which also recommended improvements on the Champlain and Mercier bridges, on the grounds that the improvements would fuel urban sprawl.
This map shows the 2003 Nicolet Commission proposal to extend A-640 east across the St. Lawrence River to A-30 in Varennes. (Map by Groupe de Recherche Urbaine Hochelaga Maisonneuve, www.gruhm.org.)
THE NEW A-46: The existing A-640 should be incorporated into the new Autoroute 46, a proposed northerly bypass that would not only alleviate congestion on the Metropolitan Autoroute (A-40), but also improve access to the Laurentian and Lanaudière regions via A-15 and A-25. The new A-46 would incorporate the original 1960's plan for a new bridge across Lac des Deux-Montagnes and the Nicolet Commission proposal for a new St. Lawrence River crossing.
Building upon the original plan to work as a more functional northern bypass, the new A-46 would have a minimum capacity of six lanes and would extend east from Varennes to A-20 (at EXIT 112) in Beloeil. Electronic tolls incorporating congestion pricing would be used to finance the construction of the Lac des Deux-Montagnes and St. Lawrence River crossings.
SOURCES: A Shared Vision for Action: Planning Framework and Government Orientations, Montreal Metropolitan Region 2001-2021, Ministère des Affaires Municipales et de la Metropole (2001); "Environmental Assessment of Road Infrastructure: Toward the Development of a Regional Framework for Integrating Climate Change Factors," Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (2004); "Reseau de Transit Urbaine / Reseau Sur Route, Groupe de Recherche Urbaine Hochelaga Maisonneuve (2004); "Highway 15 and 640 Interchange To Be Revamped" by Nancy Girgis, The North Shore News (4/22/2006); "Green Light Given for Feasibility Study" by Jean-Maurice Duddin, Le Journal de Montreal (6/01/2007); Transport Quebec; Steve Alpert; Félix-Mathieu Bégin.
A-640 and A-46 shields by Wikipedia. Lightpost photos by Douglas Kerr.