After decades of promises, Highway 30, the belt around Montreal, opened at 1 p.m. – on time and on budget.
The new four-lane highway will be managed by a private company called Nouvelle Autoroute 30 s.e.n.c. (NA30), led by Spanish-based companies Acciona and Iridium, which will get 30 years to collect tolls before turning the highway back to the government.
The private company was given $1.5 billion from the provincial government, which it must pay back with revenue collected from tolls. After that amount is paid back, the company must continue to maintain the highway, and it will continue to earn revenue from the tolls.
Motorists driving over the Serge Marcil Bridge — a 1.86-kilometre span over the St. Lawrence River — will have to pay a toll of 75 cents per axle for small cars for a total of $1.50. Trucks and cars with trailers will pay $1.15 per axle (trucks with 12 wheels or six axles, for example, will pay $6.90 to cross the bridge). The tolls can be paid by credit card or cash in one of 14 booths set up on the highway — seven in each direction.
Frequent users can buy a transponder to pay tolls in advance and get access to an express toll lane. A transponder is an RFID tag that users can stick to their cars, which the toll booth will read automatically, and the barrier will lift for cars rolling through at 20 kilometres per hour or less. Users paying with cash or credit card will have to stop and pay.
The $1.5-billion project, which has been more than 45 years in the making, will have major implications for the whole region.
On the island of Montreal, traffic from large trucks is expected to drop, as they bypass the island to travel between Ontario and the U.S. border.
People who commute between Boucherville and Vaudreuil-Dorion will shave between 23 and 31 minutes off their trip, and the area will see economic benefits as it becomes a major transport hub.
In Montreal, it’s estimated 5,000 transport trucks per day and 12,000 private vehicles will be diverted from the island’s congested roadways.
An official inauguration of the highway is scheduled for Monday morning.