Approaching the Turcot Interchange from southbound A-15
|Constructed:||1965 – 1967|
The Turcot Interchange is a three-level stack freeway interchange within the city of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Located southwest of downtown, the interchange links highways 15 (Décarie Expressway), 20 (Remembrance Highway), and 720 (Ville-Marie Expressway), and provides access to the Champlain Bridge. It takes its name from the former Turcot rail yards over which it was built.
Turcot is the largest interchange in the province and the third busiest interchange of Montreal (after Décarie and Anjou, respectively) as of 2010, with numbers averaging a north-southbound flow of 278,000 approximate daily drivers, and over 350,000 west-eastbound in total. Moreover, Turcot is an occasional spot for road accidents as speed is only limited to 70 km/h on any of the interchange's directions (and the limit is often likely to be disregarded by the night drivers going over 100 km/h). Measures were recently undertaken by Transports Quebec to install speed cameras southward of the interchange, with a speed limit of 70 km/h, which only partially helped resolve the situation.
The interchange was projected as part of the first Montreal highway in 1958 and planned to bind it to the Decarie freeway, also designed at the same time. Construction started in October 1965 and Turcot was built in time for the 1967 Montreal Expo, along with other big projects such as the Montreal Metro.
Upon its erection, an old railroad yard belonging to the Grand Trunk Company (today merged into Canadian National) served as location for the interchange and was shortened by 25%, which required the demolition of a roundhouse. In 1969, upon reviewing the situation, city authorities concluded that the project abused of unnecessary space and could have co-existed perfectly alongside the buildings that were otherwise demolished (including some 20 residences).
When originally constructed, the interchange was built high above the ground because of the cliff existing between the Upper Lachine domain and the Turcot sorting yard overtaking the old Saint-Pierre Lake basin. The highest point of the interchange, 62,5 meters, is located in its southern part over the Lachine Canal, which was built considering the accommodation for passing ships, even though the Canal closed its waterway operations just 3 years later, in 1970. Mean high of the interchange is some 40 meters, however, which, at the time of its inauguration, was considered to be both the highest freeway interchange in all of Canada, and a dramatic demonstration of Montreal's status as a modern global metropolis at the time.
The construction of the freeway junction was said to be rushed during the 1960s boom, with a lack of drainage and permeable concrete, and is now in poor condition, with pieces of concrete slabs falling from overpass structures.
In 2000, more than 300,000 vehicles used the interchange on a daily basis, far more than what it was designed to carry (50,000-60,000 vehicles ).
Since 2010, the interchange became subject to major repairs of the most heavily-accessed ramps. During the summer of 2011, over 2.7 km worth of lanes were restored, repaved and returned to safely accessible condition for larger vehicles. The repairs are slated to continue into 2018, and will likely remain a complication for the drivers until the new body of the A-20 is opened.
In June 2007, the Quebec government announced the demolition and reconstruction of the structure, projected to be complete in 2016. The announcement came four years after a study on the interchange showed the Turcot structure was crumbling, with reports of concrete slabs up to one square metre falling from the overpasses. In addition to a new interchange built lower to the ground, a large segment of Autoroute 20 would be rebuilt more to the north. Reconstruction of the interchange is expected to cost between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion.
Around the time of its announcement, the project created controversy as to how Turcot should be rebuilt. Local residents and community groups have come out against the project as proposed by the government, claiming that it will worsen pollution, increase automobile traffic downtown, and require the demolition of housing including a significant portion of the Village des Tanneries neighborhood.
The project's environmental hearings ended June 19, 2009. They revealed new plans for the area by CN, as well as strong public desire to protect existing communities, rethink the modal balance of Montreal's urban transportation, and plan realistically for a future of energy shortages and environmental crisis.
After MDDEP conducted several environmental and technical impact investigations in early Summer of 2009, construction plans were halted because of the 2009 financial crisis.
In April 2010, the city of Montreal has gathered all previous commentary reviewed by BAPE and announced a different reconstruction project, in which the railroad tracks and the main body of the A-20 are kept at their original location, the height of the interchange is basically maintained (but replaced with better-lasting materials), while the former Turcot Yards serve as ground for a new urban redevelopment district with its own communitarian aspect. The cost of such proposition was set to at least $5 billion CAD, which is at least three times that of the original.
"If this project is to replace the original", stated the minister of Transports Quebec, Julie Boulet, "we can expect at least two more years of stalling", suggesting that Turcot should not be seen as a sandbox for any kind of proposals coming from all levels of the government. According to Gerald Tremblay, the mayor of Montreal, this is exactly the time necessary to prepare for the works, which have now been postponed into the second half of 2012.
Groundbreaking and Angrignon exit reconfiguration
Starting February 2012, the MTQ proceeded to hire excavation companies in order to start the ground leveling of the former yards in terms of the future project. Currently the situation still remains unknown to whether the A-20 will be moved to that location, yet Boulet has so far confirmed that at least the reconfiguration of the Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue—Pullman—Angrignon interchange will undoubtedly take place, and is scheduled to complete near 2015. Just as foreseen in the project, the part of the Angrignon blvd currently used as an exit overpass from the A-20 will be moved some 300 meters westward, forming the second half of the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue blvd intersection. The concerned part of the Pullman street, currently consisting of a flow way between Angrignon and Sainte-Anne, will simply cease to exist.
As of April 2014, it can be seen that the works are underway near the interchange itself, and some existing streets/exits/entrances (Girouard, Crowley (after the CUSM completion), Côte-Saint-Paul, Angrignon/Pullman) have been reconfigured to accept the new flow once the body of the A-20 will be moved northward. The new end date is currently set for July 1, 2018.
Turcot Interchange in popular culture
Famous Quebec folk singer Plume Latraverse, beacon of the late 1960s counterculture and key figure at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, compared Turcot to the "functional heart" of the city, with its inward ramps being the arteries and outward ramps being the veins. One of his late 1970s songs features these lyrics.
Since late 1990s, the abandoned space underneath the ramps has become a place of urban gatherings for certain graffiti artists. The artistic trio "Flow", which was also rooted in Montreal in 1993 and has long ever since moved on, is involved in producing one of the paintings on the westbound A-20 ramp, titled "Smashing All Toys". With criminal activity on the rise in Saint-Henri in the first half of the 2000s, this space has also been high on drug dealers and violence gangs, subsequently cleared by the SPVM by 2010.
Today, the area is used as a park by many local residents, who claim that because of the height of the ramps, there is almost no pollution from the passing cars.
- "Concrete crumbling onto highway: report". CBC News. 2003-05-16. Retrieved 2007-03-14.
- "Reconstruction du complexe Turcot, à Montréal" (in French). Transports Québec. Retrieved 2008-08-25.
- "TURCOT: A disaster in the making". Turcot Mobilization. Retrieved 2008-08-25.
- Johnston, David (2008-09-26). "Saving Cazelais St.". Montreal Gazette (Canwest). Retrieved 2008-09-29.
- Prince, Jason (2009-10-21). "Bape Hearings". turcot.ca. Retrieved 2010-01-20.
- Carruthers, Alex (2009-06-27). Announces New Rail Line/ "Bape Hearings". turcot.ca. Retrieved 2010-01-20.