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Highway 20 closure causes chaos at Montreal airport

Highway 20 and the ramp that connects Route 138 have been closed since Saturday, creating massive traffic jams in western Montreal. (Hadi Hassin/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Highway 20 and the ramp that connects Route 138 have been closed since Saturday, creating massive traffic jams in western Montreal. (Hadi Hassin/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Dozens of people have missed flights out of Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport after being stuck in traffic jams in western Montreal.

Due to work by the Ministry of Transport, Highway 20 and the ramp that connects Route 138 have been closed since Saturday, creating massive congestion in the area.

In a news release Thursday, Mobilité Montréal said "there will be major obstacles during the long weekend," in particular on Highway 20 westbound at the Saint-Pierre interchange.

Highway 25 southbound in the area of Souligny Avenue, Highway 13 north in Laval near Highway 440 and the Laviolette Bridge between Trois-Rivières and Bécancour are also under construction.

"These areas should be avoided as much as possible," Mobilité Montréal said, adding that drivers should plan their trips in advance.

'This has got to be a joke'

But many say navigation apps haven't been warning them of the closures and traffic conditions.

One group of students from the Séminaire de Sherbrooke college missed the plane that was supposed to take them on a school trip to Greece.

Student Anaïs Yaghmour called it a "very frustrating 24 hours," as the students have been "hyped up for this trip for months."

"We're done school, we're done our exams, we're going to Greece!" she said.

"The initial reaction is, 'This has got to be a joke,'" she said. "The fact that we didn't know about [the construction] in advance is very frustrating."

Hadi Hassin/Radio-Canada
Hadi Hassin/Radio-Canada

Yaghmour said it was an unprecedented amount of traffic no one could anticipate.

Her class left their hotel — about a 20 minute drive to the airport — around 1:45 p.m. Saturday, but didn't get to the airport until 5 p.m.

"We actually saw people get out of their cars, get out of their taxis, to walk to the airport — and they were walking faster than we were moving," she said.

Air Canada and the travel agency that reserved the tickets for the school trip managed to get students, teachers and guides aboard different planes.

Significant congestion was expected

Transports Québec spokesperson Martin Girard said it was expected that the construction would have "major consequences," especially since the area is already prone to traffic.

"We knew this would create significant congestion ... in the Montreal region, there are obstructions [to traffic] every weekend," he said, stressing that drivers should avoid the sector as much as possible.

Girard encouraged people to consult the Quebec511 website for the most recent information on roadwork. He also recommended using Highway 40 to get to the airport instead of Highway 20.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Transport said the decision to shut part of the highway was "not political" and said it is "always in communication with Mobilité Montréal during major congestion … to ensure we advise the population."

Glenn Castanheira, the executive director for the Downtown Montreal Merchants' Association, tweeted that the traffic was "unacceptable."

"While Montreal is experiencing a spectacular tourism revival, access to the airport from downtown must be a priority," he said.