Asphalt on the Metropolitan Highway | Miles to redo, a year later

Just installed, already removed. The asphalt on part of the Metropolitan Highway will have to be ripped out. Work will have to be “recovered at 100%” in the western segment of the road axis, the bitumen used by the contractor Roxboro Excavation being “not of good quality”. Cost overruns, which will be borne by the private sector, could reach more than 10 million. But Quebec will necessarily pay “indirect costs”, judges an expert.

Updated yesterday at 9:00 p.m.

Henri Ouellette-Vezina

Henri Ouellette-Vezina
The Press

“From Chemin Canora to Chemin de la Côte-de-Liesse, the work carried out in 2021 will have to be resumed at 100%. All the asphalt will have to be ripped out and re-laid with a new layer, according to the specifications of the Ministry,” explained Thursday the director general of the metropolitan region of Montreal of the MTQ, Fadi Moubayed. He affirms that such a misunderstanding is “a first” for the Ministry, especially since it occurs on a “major” site.


Fadi Moubayed, Director General of the Montreal Metropolitan Region of the Quebec Ministry of Transport, and Michel Paradis, Director of the Infrastructure Materials Department

As early as last summer, the government noticed that “a little bleeding” was appearing on the surface of the highway. Usually associated with too much bitumen in the asphalt, this phenomenon actually causes the bitumen to rise to the top. The road therefore gives “the impression of being wet”, which poses security issues, said Mr. Moubayed.

Laboratory tests then confirmed that the bitumen used “was not of good quality”, and that part of its composition was of “lower class” compared to what had been requested. “We risked ending up with a faster deterioration of the roadway,” insisted the Ministry official. The latter then entered into an agreement with Roxboro Excavation and Groupe Bauval, which participated in the design of the asphalt in 2021, to ensure a resumption of work “at zero cost” for taxpayers.

“Indirect” costs for Quebec?

For the transportation planning expert at the University of Montreal Pierre Barrieau, it is wrong to say that this work will be done at zero cost to the government.

“It’s probably going to cost millions in supervision to make sure it’s done correctly, not to mention the very high costs of congestion, closures and communication around the site. All this has a price that the government will have to pay, ”he explains.

In times of shortage of materials, labor and heavy machinery, this also risks causing inflationary pressure on all the other Department projects, which could cost more or be downright delayed.

Pierre Barrieau, transport planning specialist at the University of Montreal

In his eyes, the fact that the MTQ did not realize the situation before the laying of the asphalt “is surprising to say the least”. “On most projects, we are able to detect problems like this much more quickly. The mechanisms are there precisely to prevent human error. There was clearly a problem in the supervision”, he judges, recalling that the environmental impact will also be significant. “Bitumen is still a petroleum product,” he slips.

At the Professional Association of Government Engineers of Quebec (APIGQ), President Marc-André Martin regrets that the situation illustrates the weakness of the processes in place. “Everything related to asphalt and bitumen control is self-control by contractors, and that’s a decision by the MTQ. It has been said for more than 20 years that it is appalling, ”he criticizes.

“We can’t rely blindfolded on what all the entrepreneurs are going to tell us. The reality is that the MTQ does not want to be responsible. The government has completely absolved itself of responsibility,” maintains the president of APIGQ, whose members have been on strike for four weeks. “Our role is exactly that: to detect this kind of problem. We are here to prevent that from happening, ”he insists.

Focus on upcoming work

In the West, the asphalt will be completely replaced in the coming weeks by “blitz”, the major repair work not to be carried out for at least five years. In the East, where the bulk of the work could be launched within five years, between the Provencher and Saint-Laurent axes, the asphalt will not be replaced, at least for the moment. In this segment, the contractor has undertaken to give “a five-year durability guarantee” on its bitumen. If this does not meet expectations, the work will also have to be redone.

If we snatched 40% in the eastern sector, we could, for example, speak of a sum of around 10 million dollars that the contractor will have to insure.

Fadi Moubayed, Director General of the Montreal Metropolitan Region of the MTQ

The director of the Directorate of Infrastructure Materials at the MTQ, Michel Paradis, assured that “spot checks” had nevertheless been carried out on the samples. It was in “production”, when the Ministry no longer carried out close monitoring, that the mixture of bitumens would have posed a problem.


The bitumen used in carrying out the works “was not of good quality”, revealed laboratory tests.

“We are talking about a production problem. It was a contractor error,” he said, blaming Roxboro Excavation directly. The company said Thursday that it could not comment on the situation due to the nature of its contract with the MTQ. According to our sources, it was a “human” error committed by factory employees.

Fadi Moubayed, he went there with a culinary analogy. “When we make a cake, we check the quality of the flour and the eggs before making the cake, but once we mix, we are not going to check the quality of the eggs and the flour. We will rather look at the cake, its texture, its color, its taste, etc. he said, swearing that the Ministry will “learn lessons” from this case. “We are in the process of continuous improvement. Every year, we review things, ”qualified Mr. Paradis, who hopes to be able to develop a “Quebec standard” on asphalt mixing plants by 2023. For the time being, Quebec uses an American standard. , like many other states.

In addition to the significant cost overruns to be considered, Roxboro Excavation will also have to pay “unconditional” financial compensation of $820,000 to the Quebec government, for “trouble and trouble”.

The overall project

According to documents made public in early 2020, almost all the structural elements of this highway inaugurated in 1960 will be rebuilt or replaced: the columns that support the structures will be repaired, the concrete slab will be rebuilt, and a waterproofing membrane will be added.

Learn more

  • 200,000
    It is estimated that nearly 200,000 motorists travel on the elevated portion of the Metropolitan Autoroute every day on average, 13% of whom are heavy vehicle drivers. The major repair work on this axis was announced in January 2020.

    SOURCE: Quebec Ministry of Transport

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