Motorists who had to travel between the South Shore and Montreal last weekend got a good glimpse of what awaits them for the next three years as road users enter the era of circulatory chaos. Motorists and truckers who have to cross the river daily to get to work or to supply the supply chain will have to learn to survive in a much narrower corridor.
The chaos of the weekend was caused by the total closure of the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine bridge-tunnel in a northerly direction and led to traffic jams of several kilometers on the axes giving access to the Jacques-Cartier and Samuel-De Champlain bridges. Well, it was a total closure, but we were still in the middle of the weekend.
Imagine next week when three of the six lanes of the bridge-tunnel will be closed and that motorists who have to travel for their work will still have to take the 25 and that trucks will resume their deliveries.
The planned mitigation measures, such as increased use of public transit, carpooling or telecommuting, will be useful, but unfortunately they will not succeed in reducing the congestion of the bridge-tunnel and that expected on the main roads of access to other sleepers.
Loss of time, loss of productivity, CO emissions2 additional charges, late deliveries, increased stress, increased traffic density in neighborhoods near bridge accesses, diminished quality of life, the list of inconveniences is long and likely to grow even longer.
“We won’t start yelling, but it’s going to be hard,” comments André Morneau, CEO of Groupe Morneau, a road transport company that operates a major “hub” in Anjou, in the strategic axis of highways 40 and 25.
“It’s going to be a mess,” continues Michel Robert, CEO of Groupe Robert, which operates a fleet of more than 1,000 trucks, with a strategic distribution center in Boucherville, near the 20, which opens windows to Montreal. and the northern crown, as well as towards eastern Quebec.
“It’s going to be a nightmare,” said Véronique Proulx, CEO of Manufacturiers et Exportateurs du Québec, who fears additional dysfunctions in the supply chain, already quite disrupted by two years of pandemic.
These three short reactions from major economic players who will be hard hit by the next three years of increased barriers to transport in the greater metropolitan area sum up the general feeling.
What will be the cost of this circulatory chaos for the Montreal and Quebec economy? Difficult to predict, since it is in use that we can better measure the concrete effects. However, we note that certain expenses have already been incurred to mitigate the consequences of the partial but permanent closure of three lanes out of six of the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine bridge-tunnel.
Overnight deliveries and stock returns
Unfortunately, Highway 25 is a strategic axis for the transport of goods, since it connects the center of Quebec to Montreal and the northern crown. The strong presence of trucks is constant there, especially since it provides access to containers from the Port of Montreal, where up to 2,500 trucks circulate every day of the week.
“We opened a warehouse in Varennes where we will transship deliveries overnight, leaving from our terminal in Anjou,” explains David Morneau, executive vice-president and chief operating officer at Groupe Morneau.
The company has also agreed with another carrier to park some of its trailers on the South Shore.
We plan to make several trips during the night to reduce our presence during the day and avoid peak hour congestion. These are additional costs, but we have no choice. We’ve been preparing for the partial closure of the bridge-tunnel for more than a year.
David Morneau, Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer at Groupe Morneau
Michel Robert has also explored various mitigation measures for Groupe Robert, but still sees many obstacles in the way for the coming months.
“We are doing exchanges with other carriers, we are reviewing the roads, we want to do night transport on the 25, but it is difficult, due to a labor shortage, to find truckers who want to do it. “, emphasizes the CEO.
Groupe Robert wishes to reach an agreement with the various stakeholders of the Port of Montreal to carry out transport on Saturdays. Delivery delays will increase transport costs for its customers. At Groupe Morneau, we are going to reduce the delivery time from 24 to 48 hours.
Véronique Proulx fears for her part a movement of defection of the workforce at some of the member companies of Manufacturiers et Exportateurs du Québec.
You can’t work from home in factories, but employees don’t want to be stuck in traffic for four hours a day, and some are looking for another job, closer to home.
Véronique Proulx, CEO of Quebec Manufacturers and Exporters
Apprehension confirmed to me by Jean-Denis Charest, president of the East Montreal Chamber of Commerce.
“East of Montreal is a place of convergence where many companies have employees from the South Shore or from the East like Repentigny. It is already expected that 140,000 workers will leave Montreal East over the next 10 years, we must not lose more because of the closure of the bridge-tunnel,” explained Mr. Charest.
The circulatory chaos that we will experience over the next three years will perhaps accelerate the end or the updating of the concept of just-in-time delivery. It was a fine principle when the supply chain was smooth and efficient, but the pandemic has already shaken its relevance.
Rather than live with constant product shortages of all kinds, companies have rediscovered the virtues of inventory. The obstacles to road transport that we will have to live with for three years will constitute an additional strong argument for the return of the warehouses and the gradual elimination of the constant comings and goings that we can no longer ensure.
What impact do you anticipate from the closure of the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine bridge-tunnel on your company’s activities? How do you plan to fix it?