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This 2006 photo shows the westbound Bonaventure Autoroute (A-10) approaching its terminus at the Ville Marie Autoroute (A-720) and University Street. City officials wish to replace the elevated expressway with a relocated expressway away from the St. Lawrence River shoreline and an urban boulevard approaching downtown. (Photo by Laura Siggia Anderson.)

LINKING THE CHAMPLAIN BRIDGE TO DOWNTOWN: The Bonaventure Autoroute did not appear on the 1960 Montreal Metropolitan Committee master plan for new autoroutes. However, when the Champlain Bridge opened in 1962, the National Harbours Board (which built the bridge) and Montreal officials added the Bonaventure Autoroute to the city's master plan in order to provide direct highway access from the South Shore to downtown Montreal. The proposed six-lane connector received an additional boost when Montreal was awarded Expo '67; the Bonaventure Autoroute was to provide the primary access to the site.

City and Federal officials came to the following agreement regarding the expressway:

  • Rights-of-way for the expressway owned by the Federal government would be acquired by the City of Montreal free of charge and would remain its property.

  • The City of Montreal would pay for construction from the corner of University Street (which was to serve as the downtown feeder route for the Bonaventure Autoroute) and Notre Dame Street to the midpoint of the Lachine Canal. The National Harbours Board would pay for building the rest of the expressway, including the wyes to the Champlain Bridge and the Decarie Autoroute.

In the path of the expressway stood Griffintown, an older working-class residential district where many of Irish descent settled during the mid-to-late 1800's. Griffintown supplied the workers who labored in Montreal's industrial districts, as well as built the Lachine Canal and the Victoria Bridge. By the mid 20th century, much of Griffintown was plagued by healthy and safety hazards because of poor living conditions. Mayor Jean Drapeau declared Griffintown an industrial area in 1960 as part of a more widespread urban renewal policy, and three years later re-christened the district "Faubourg des Recollets." Drapeau's actions paved the way for the elevated expressway that was to serve this new industrial district.

The first construction contracts were awarded on August 6, 1965 and work began on the expressway soon thereafter. The expressway, which was designated Autoroute 10 in 1966, was designed as follows:

  • Two wyes from the Decarie Autoroute and the Champlain Bridge - each four lanes wide - converge to form a six-lane expressway about 800 meters (about one-half mile) north of the Autoroute 15 / Autoroute 20 termini and Ile des Soeurs (Nuns' Island).

  • The six-lane Bonaventure Autoroute continues north for about 1.6 kilometers (one mile) at grade level along the St. Lawrence waterfront toward the Victoria Bridge (QC 112). The expressway historically separated an industrial area from the river, but this former industrial area now is part of the emerging Technoparc development. There is no direct interchange with the Victoria Bridge; indirect access is provided through EXIT 2 (Pierre-Dupuy Avenue) westbound and EXIT 3 (Technoparc) westbound.

  • Continuing north and west of the Victoria Bridge, the expressway transitions to a viaduct that carries A-10 over the Port of Montreal and the Lachine Canal. As it crosses the Lachine Canal, the expressway runs parallel to the CN railroad right-of-way. A westbound interchange (EXIT 1) is provided at Wellington Street.

  • Just before the end of the Bonaventure Autoroute, two ramps connect to an underground interchange with the Ville-Marie Autoroute (A-720). A-10 then transitions to University Street, an eight-lane urban boulevard serving downtown.

The Bonaventure Expressway was built for a design speed of 70 km/h (45 MPH). Opposing traffic flows are separated by a concrete ("Jersey") barrier except in the area of the A-15 / A-20 interchange, where older steel guiderails continue to separate flows. There are right-hand shoulders only on the grade-level section along the St. Lawrence waterfront; there are no right-hand shoulders on the elevated section, nor are there any left-hand shoulders along the length of the expressway.

The A-10 extension into downtown Montreal opened to traffic on April 21, 1967, just one week before the start of Expo '67. When it opened, the Bonaventure Autoroute carried hundreds of thousands of people from outside Montreal to its world's fair. Today, the expressway functions as not only the primary connector to downtown Montreal from the South Shore, but also a route to Casino de Montreal (which was built on the site of Expo '67).

According to Transport Canada, the Bonaventure Autoroute carries approximately 55,000 vehicles per day (AADT). The Federal government's partial ownership of the expressway (through the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated) explains the presence of bilingual road signs, representing some of the few examples of such signs on Quebec's autoroutes.

This 1979 photo shows the six-lane elevated Bonaventure Autoroute (A-10) looking west toward the Lachine Canal.

  • To the lower left of the photo are industrial buildings and powerhouses, some of which have been razed and replaced in recent years with the lower-profile buildings of Technoparc.

  • To the upper right of the photo is the Five Roses flour mill, which now is owned by Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). ADM officials turned off the landmark red neon "Farine Five Roses" sign atop this building in mid-2006, but reversed this decision promptly following civic outcry.

(Photo from the Archives Nationale de Quebec / "Bilan de Siecle," University of Sherbrooke.)

OPENING UP THE WATERFRONT, BUT DISMANTLING AN EXPRESSWAY: In 2005, the Société du Havre de Montréal proposed a C$2.5 billion redevelopment of Technoparc and Griffintown as part of a long-range plan to reconnect downtown with the waterfront by 2025. A key component of the proposal entails dismantling the elevated Bonaventure Autoroute between downtown and the Victoria Bridge, and relocating the autoroute between the Victoria Bridge and the Champlain Bridge approach.

The dismantling and relocating of the expressway, which the agency estimates would cost up to C$675 million, would take place in three stages and proceed as follows:

  • The first stage would involve dismantling the city-owned six-lane expressway from Notre Dame Street to Brennan Street and replacing it with a six- to eight-lane urban arterial with a wide median. Parks and buildings would be built in the median. New signalized intersections would be created at William, Ottawa, Wellington, and Brennan streets. There would be no alterations to the already existing tunnel ramps to the Ville-Marie Autoroute (A-720).

  • In the second stage of the project, a six- to eight-lane vehicular tunnel would be built underneath the Lachine Canal to boost the tourism potential of the area. A signalized intersection would be created at Pierre-Dupuy Avenue. (A less expensive bridge alternative over the canal would cut about C$200 million from the project cost.)

  • The final stage would involve relocating the grade-level freeway about 400 meters (1,300 feet) inland, away from the St. Lawrence waterfront. The relocated section of the Bonaventure and its ramps to the Champlain Bridge would retain full access control, but the controlled-access wye to the Decarie Autoroute (A-15 and A-20) would be converted into a four-lane urban arterial. This stage of the project may prove difficult because the Crown-owned Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated maintains this section of A-10.

The Société du Havre's proposal, which officials hope would spark C$2.7 billion in private real estate investment, would create as many as 4,000 new housing units and up to 265,000 square meters (about 2.85 million square feet) of new commercial space. The renewal plan features parks, walking paths, and bicycle trails along the route of the reconfigured "Bonaventure Boulevard" (University Street Extension), and even has a small football / soccer stadium along the St. Lawrence waterfront. An early plan for a new joint casino-entertainment complex on the waterfront was dropped when the complex's backers, Loto-Quebec and Cirque du Soleil, backed out of the project in March 2006.

This simulated map shows the relocated Bonaventure Autoroute (A-10) and University Street Extension, including the proposed tunnel beneath the Lachine Canal. The C$675 million relocation of A-10 is a key component of the Société du Havre's C$8 billion waterfront development plan. (Map from the Société du Havre de Montréal.)

KEEP THE EXPRESSWAY TO DOWNTOWN: The Société du Havre appears to have a strong argument to implement its ambitious plan to extend the boundary of downtown to the Lachine Canal. However, the Bonaventure Autoroute should not be sacrificed to achieve this goal, but rather improved to modern design standards (e.g., standard-width shoulders). Eliminating the expressway would not only impede commuter and tourist access to the heart of downtown Montreal, but also deny important truck access to nearby industrial and port areas. It also would leave two expressway stub ends (A-10 and A-720) downtown, creating additional congestion.

SOURCES: "Volume of Traffic for the Proposed Expressway System, Based on Projections for the Year 1981," Ville de Montreal, Service de la Circulation (1961); "A New Montreal" by Charles J. Lazarus, The New York Times (4/23/1967); "A Study of the Existing Montreal Expressway System" by Dominic Mignogna, McGill University (1969); "Last Irishman Standing" by Kristian Gravenor, The Montreal Mirror (3/11/2004); "Waterfront Project Called City's Biggest Renewal Since Expo '67" by Alan Hustak, The Montreal Gazette (10/07/2005); "Harbourfront Shifts to Plan B" by Ann Carroll, The Montreal Gazette (3/23/2006); "Expressway, Not Casino Called Key to Plan" by Jan Ravensbergen, The Montreal Gazette (4/15/2006); "Housing and Transportation in Montreal: How Suburbanization Is Improving the Region's Competitiveness" by Wendell Cox, Montreal Economic Institute (July 2006); Genivar, Inc.; Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated; Société du Havre de Montréal; Transport Canada; Transport Quebec; Félix-Mathieu Bégin.

  • A-10 shield from Wikipedia.
  • Lightpost photos by Douglas Kerr.

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