Thursday, September 02, 2010

Enhancing the Ambiance of Montreal: Highways

The next several posts explore specific ways of enhancing the ambience of Montreal, based on ideas generated by visiting other places.

  • Suggestions for highways
  • Suggestions for street- and metro-scapes
  • Suggestions for retail, especially HBC retail outlets
Montreal Suggestions 1:  Improving Highways 
Although most of the attention these days if focused on replacing the Turcot interchange (and a quick look at the bridges that look like they’ve got the highway equivalent of osteoporosis, that’s a good thing), the next set of intersections that demand attention are the intersections of Autoroutes 40 and 15, and 40 and 25.

The same core problem faces both—whoever designed these did not seem to think about the people who would actually have to drive through them.  In the designers’ defense, they might have been constrained by space.  But their solutions only managed to create a traffic nightmare.

The simpler to fix is the intersections of 40 and 25, which mixes highway access roads (where drivers go fast) with city streets (where speeds are constrained to 40 km/hour).  The two don’t mingle well.  The worst of this is the entrance to Autoroute 40 west from Galleries Anjou, where drivers must go through a couple of residential streets to get onto the highway.  That’s neither safe nor quiet for the residents, but it’s neither obvious nor well-marked for the driver.

A similar issue arises for drivers trying to merge from Autoroute 40 onto Autoroute 25; rather than exiting on a dedicated ramp, drivers merge on an active service road, with all sorts of incoming and outgoing traffic.  Yes, I know that speeds are reduced there, but the potential for an accident is still higher than it should be.

But the more serious safety hazard and, more basically, guaranteed traffic jam, is the merge between Autoroutes 40 and 15.  Part of the problem is that 15 is split into two roads, separated by about 2 km.  So there’s a stretch of highway that has to serve a combined roadway.

Making it worse in both directions, drivers on Autoroute 15 always merge onto Autoroute 40 on the right, then have a short distance to get over to a left exit onto the other segment of Autoroute 15.  A drive on Autoroute 40 is thus blocked streams of vehicles merging left who are merely trying to continue their journey on Autoroute 15.  Not only is this a built-in slow-down, it’s an accident waiting to happen.

But most of all, this situation is completely avoidable.  (1) Even though the stretch of highway needs to accommodate 6 lanes of traffic (3 from Autoroute 40, 3 more from Autoroute 15), the road only widens for a brief half-kilometer stretch—and the, only by 1 lane.   Simply widening the road would address the capacity issue.  Moving all exits to the right side of the roadway in both directions would solve the merging problem.

Then there’s one last problem: the recently re-worked L’Acadie Circle, which was redesigned to accommodate some of this traffic.  When it works, it’s OK.  But it tends to flood easily.  It sounds like the problem results from the practical issue of inadequate drainage, made worse by a failure of city and provincial roadway officials coordinating their work.  Each blames the other.  From a driver’s perspective, the bottom line performance is that both parties look incompetent in their inability to design a roadway that stays reasonably dry and they look petty when they would rather expend energy blaming the other party than solving the problem for the taxpayers who pay both sets of salaries.  (But this isn’t new; the failure to communicate among units about  work on Boulevard St. Laurent highlights the organizational communication problems in governmental units.)

One last suggestion:  it would be great if the powers-that-be could get their act together and begin construction of the rail link from the airport to the heart of the city.  For a city that wants to present itself as forward thinking in terms of urban transit, this is a glaring hole in our traffic landscape.

Furthermore, given that the airport is relatively close to the city, that the tunnels for the train link are already available, and that a track already exists, the only problem is the same problem that plagues the Turcot, St. Laurent, L’Acadie, and nearly every other major transportation project facing this city.  As I understand these projects, they’re all technically feasible technically and economically; but parochial, self-centered communications steers each of these projects down a bum path.

If we want better communications, instead of hiring another engineering firm, perhaps we ought to hire an organizational communicator to plan a project communication strategy, and professional facilitator to ensure that the communications move in a positive direction.
Next set of suggestions: Enhancing the Montreal Street- and Metro-scapes

No comments: