Argenteuil MNA Yves St-Denis says that Highway 50 is dangerous. The highway is unique in the province, one of only a few major roadways with two lanes, one in each direction, plus a third lane that alternates directions. The effect on motorists is that they are continuously being forced to merge, as the passing lane tapers off and alternates directions.
In order to discourage motorists from pulling into the opposing lane of traffic, a rumble strip was also added to the central divide. St-Denis says that these design elements aren’t enough to reduce the number of accidents that occur on Highway 50. Quebec’s coroner appears to agree.
On April 1, 2014, Coroner Denyse Langelier released her report on the death of 31-year-old Gabriel Carrière, who died in a collision on Highway 50, in Mirabel. The report said on March 25, 2013, Carrière was travelling eastbound on Highway 50, when his car crossed the dividing line and struck a vehicle that was travelling in the opposite direction.
The accident wasn’t unique to that area. Between 2008 and 2014, ten fatalities were reported at that same location, said the coroner’s report.
Citing a Quebec Ministry of Transport study that recommended installing a barrier between the opposing lanes of traffic, the coroner determined that the only way to reduce accidents and prevent motorists from crossing the line and striking oncoming traffic was to add a cement concrete slide, a pre-stressed cable guide, or another other type of barrier.
Similar accidents continue to plague other sections of Highway 50, including six that took place in the Gatineau region between November 2013 and November 2016.
Two Gatineau women died after a head-on collission on Highway 50, near Grenville, On September 17.
Last November, Robert Goulet, the mayor of the municipality of L’Ange Gardien, told CBC News that there are too many accidents taking place on Highway 50. He urged the government to expand the section of Highway 50 near Buckingham, which had been opened just four years earlier.
In 2012, former Quebec Premier Jean Charest travelled to Grenville-sur-la-Rouge for the opening of that section of Highway 50, which links Grenville to Point-aux-Chênes. When asked why the government chose to build a two-lane, versus a four-lane highway, Charest said that the expected level of traffic simply did not justify the added expense of building two extra lanes. He said the possibility of expansion had been built into the design plan and early estimates suggested an expansion might be necessary by 2022, when population and traffic numbers were expected to grow. All of the overpasses, with the exception of one that was built during the very initial phases of construction, were designed to accommodate for a four-lane highway.
“Essentially all that is needed is to cut down some trees and lay the road base and paving. All of the major preparations have been done,” said St-Denis, who is working with his colleague, Alexandre Iraca, the Liberal MNA for Papineau, to lobby the government to widen Highway 50. “This highway is dangerous. There are too many accidents and we need to invest in changing that,” he said.
The lobbying campaign has only recently been launched by St-Denis and Iraca. An estimate on the cost to widen this 90-kilometre long highway is not yet available. The original construction, which began in 2000 and was completed three years later, cost $800 million.
Before it was completed in 2012, Highway 50 had been discussed since the 1970s. St-Denis told The Review that he is optimistic that it won’t take another 50 years to complete construction of the highway and to widen it to four lanes.
“Over the past four years, traffic on this highway has been higher than expected. I will respect all of the studies that have been conducted regarding this highway, but I think it’s time we began talking about expansion,” said St-Denis.
In addition to safety concerns, St-Denis says expanding the highway is necessary to encourage the residential and industrial development of his riding.