This 2006 photo shows the eastbound Laval Autoroute (A-440) at EXIT 22 (A-15 / Laurentian Autoroute) in Laval. (Photo by Laura Siggia Anderson.)
ALONG THE SPINE OF LAVAL: Planned since the early 1960's as an inner bypass of the Metropolitan Autoroute (A-40) through Laval (Ile-Jesus) by the Ministère de la Voirie du Québec (MVQ), the Laval Autoroute serves as the primary east-west axis through Laval. The Laval Autoroute links to all of the north-south expressways connecting Laval with Montreal.
Construction of the Laval Autoroute began in 1972, and the freeway was completed in the following stages:
1974: The first section of the Laval Autoroute from EXIT 19 (QC 117 / Cure-Labelle Boulevard) east to EXIT 22 (A-15 / Laurentian Autoroute) as a pair of two-lane service roads. The service roads are grade separated at interchanges, but provide access to local streets and businesses. A wide grassy median was reserved for the future construction of a six-lane controlled-access freeway.
1975: The Ministere des Transports du Quebec (MTQ) opened a second section of the Laval Autoroute from EXIT 22 (A-15) east to EXIT 25 (QC 335 / Laurentian Boulevard). From EXIT 22 east to EXIT 24 (Industrial Boulevard), A-440 followed the design of the original section such that only service roads were built; a wide median was set aside for a future freeway. East of EXIT 24, the MTQ built a six-lane freeway without service roads. Beginning at the ramps for EXIT 25, the MTQ constructed a full-build, freeway-and-service road configuration with ten lanes (in a 2-3-3-2 setup).
1975: The MTQ extended the A-440 service roads from EXIT 19 (QC 117) west to Avenue des Bois, leaving aside median space for a six-lane freeway. A cloverleaf interchange was built at EXIT 17 for the newly opened A-13 (Chomedey Autoroute).
1976: A-440 was extended east from EXIT 25 (QC 335) to EXIT 27 (A-19 / Papineau Autoroute). The opening of this section of A-440, which had a full-build 2-3-3-2 configuration, coincided with that of the adjacent A-19 (which had a similar 2-3-3-2 configuration through the A-440 interchange).
1979: The last section of A-440 was built in a 2-3-3-2 configuration from EXIT 27 (A-19) east to EXIT 30 (Temporary A-25 / Pie-IX Autoroute). At the present time, A-440 continues to the north and east of this interchange as A-25.
In 1994, the MTQ finished construction of the six-lane freeway from Avenue des Bois (west of EXIT 13) east to EXIT 24 (Industrial Boulevard). The freeway was built in the median reserved for its construction two decades earlier.
According to the MTQ, A-440 carries as many as 130,000 vehicles per day (AADT) between the A-15 and A-19 interchanges; it reaches a low of 15,000 vehicles per day west of A-13. The freeway was built for a 100 km/h (60 MPH) design speed.
THE REROUTING OF A-25 AND THE A-440 EXTENSION: Current plans for the proposed A-25 extension (Lafontaine Autoroute) from Henri Bourassa Boulevard in Montreal north to the existing A-25 and QC 125 in Laval call for its completion as a toll road in 2011. Under this plan, the existing A-440 would be extended east about four kilometers (2.5 miles) along what is now A-25; this section originally was mapped as part of A-440 and built between 1968 and 1971.
Under the rerouting proposal, the existing EXIT 13 (Montee Saint-Francois) on A-25 would be changed to EXIT 31 on A-440, while the existing EXIT 16 would be changed to EXIT 34. At the current EXIT 16 on A-25, a new modified "Y-interchange" would be built to connect the extended A-440, the new A-25 extension, and the existing A-25 (Lanaudiere Autoroute). Additional ramps would be built to connect to QC 125 (Montee Masson).
This 2002 photo shows the eastbound Laval Autoroute (A-440) at EXIT 25 (QC 335 / Laurentian Boulevard) in Laval. (Photo by Douglas Kerr, www.gribblenation.com.)
EXTENDING WEST TO MONTREAL'S WEST ISLAND: The original 1960's plan for the Laval Autoroute called for a 17-kilometer (10.5-mile) extension continuing along Avenue des Bois through the western end of Ile-Jesus; Avenue des Bois was built years later along the proposed alignment of A-440. Upon leaving Laval to the west, A-440 was to cross over to Ile-Bizard on a new bridge, the first span between Ile-Jesus and Ile-Bizard (there still remains no bridge connecting the two islands to this day. The proposed autoroute then was to continue across two-thirds of Ile-Bizard before turning south onto Montreal Island on a new bridge.
A-440 was planned to end at A-40 (Metropolitan Autoroute) near the current EXIT 49 (St. Marie Road), where there remain wide grassy areas for construction of a directional interchange between A-40 and A-440. There were no official plans to extend A-440 to A-20 (Veterans Memorial Autoroute), but if it had done so, A-440 would have continued south to A-20 in the vicinity of Woodland Avenue.
The rise of Parti Québecois (PQ) after the 1976 elections formally ended many stillborn autoroute projects including the western extension of A-440. The PQ diverted most of these funds to develop mass transit. However, the MTQ kept the A-440 right-of-way - much of which was acquired during the 1960's - for future autoroute or arterial use, even though no funds have been set aside for this purpose.
The 2004 Montreal Master Plan calls for city officials to acquire the A-440 right-of-way through Ile Bizard as a nature preserve, while on the West Island, the city contemplates a four-lane surface arterial in the right-of-way to connect A-40 with Gouin Boulevard West. Local streets in the West Island would connect to the proposed arterial to improve access and provide through-street continuity.
The master plan addresses the following concerns along the A-440 West Island corridor:
The discontinuity of the road network, combined with the railway and expressway infrastructure, limits access to the industrial areas of Baie d'Urfé and Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and to public transportation service at the Baie-d'Urfé and Beaurepaire commuter train stations. In fact, only Saint-Charles Boulevard provides a continuous north-south link in this part of the Island. The Autoroute 440 right-of-way, located between Gouin Boulevard West and Autoroute 40 and owned by the Ministère des Transports du Québec, limits accessibility of the residential areas in the boroughs of Kirkland and Pierrefonds-Senneville. Urban development and the required extensions to transportation and other infrastructure could jeopardize the integrity of the area's ecosystems and the sustainability of its landscapes. In light of this, planning objectives must support a built environment that respects natural heritage while favoring the use of public transportation and bicycles.
However, some West Island community leaders object to a new arterial in the A-440 right-of-way because they fear it would lead to the resurrection of the A-440 freeway. Instead, they propose a multi-use trail and a nature preserve along the right-of-way.
AND EAST TO THE NORTH SHORE: During the mid-1960's, provincial officials also proposed an easterly extension of A-440 along Marcel Villeneuve Avenue through the eastern tip of Ile-Jesus. A-440 was to cross a new bridge over Riviere des Mille Iles to Lachenaie (Charlemagne), continuing east along QC 344 (St. Charles Road) for about three kilometers (two miles) before ending at A-40 (North Shore Autoroute) near EXIT 94. The MTQ dropped the A-440 eastern extension to the North Shore quietly during the 1970's.
SOURCES: "A Study of the Existing Montreal Expressway System" by Dominic Mignogna, McGill University (1969); "Paving a West Island Vision" by Henry Aubin, The Montreal Gazette (5/10/2002); "Caring for Community, Critical Areas," McGill University (2002); Ecoplan: "Green Coalition Brief: Transportation," The Green Coalition (2005); "Pooling Effort Aims to Ease Traffic" by Andy Blatchford, The West Island Chronicle (11/22/2006); "Artery Status Needed To Fund Road Work: Senneville Mayor" by Andy Blatchford, The West Island Chronicle (1/24/2007); Ministère des Transports du Québec; Félix Mathieu-Bégin; Stephane Dumas.
A-440 and A-25 shields by Wikipedia. Lightpost photos by Douglas Kerr.