Our Traffic Engineers

4 July 2018

L'ingénieur en circulation

Construction sites are popping up all over Quebec, and Montreal is no exception. As a user of the road, you know how hard it can be to get around the province in the summer. Did you know that, without our Traffic Engineers, the situation would be much worse, if not impossible?

Traffic Engineers make sure road users can get where they need to go at all times. They have to juggle multiple traffic hindrances and many stakeholders to find the best way to minimize the impact of work on traffic.

“We have to make sure users can always get around and never get caught off guard in traffic because of poor coordination. We coordinate our activities through several committees that include our partners’ engineers. We all have to carry out our work to meet our deadlines. However, if access to the entire city is blocked at the same time, we have a problem. We have to carry out an immense amount of coordination to combine work and orchestrate the different closure scenarios,” explains Olivier Patry, Traffic Engineer at The Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated (JCCBI).

Long-term planning

JCCBI plans its major work 10 years in advance in collaboration with other stakeholders, such as the Ministère des Transports, Mobilité durable et Électrification des transports (MTMDET), as well as the cities of Montreal and Longueuil.

The Traffic Engineer acts as a bridge between internal project managers and all external stakeholders to coordinate our work with theirs.

Marie-Michèle Bussières-Dicaire, a Traffic Engineer at JCCBI, says that the “major construction boom in the 1960s means that a lot of maintenance or reconstruction work is all due at the same time. While some minor work can be postponed, we have to take every opportunity to do what we can to avoid emergency work in the medium term, which could negatively impact other work that has been planned for a long time.”

A major role in daily life

In an ideal world, all work would be done on time without any impact on traffic. However, the Traffic Engineer has to deal with a myriad of factors: weather, accidents, stalled cars, unexpected mechanical failures, or collisions with a structure. A delay at even one work site can cause a chain reaction that impacts all subsequent planned work. Daily coordination is required to optimize traffic flow in the network, and this takes many hours of weekly meetings and phone calls. “If we neglect simply to coordinate with a contractor, this can have a major impact on their schedule and the timetable of other work sites, which in turn will cause additional delays and costs for everyone,” says Olivier. 

The Traffic Engineer’s challenges

Marie-Michèle says that another unpredictable factor is each user’s route. “When we set up a detour, we account for restrictions for truckers, one-way streets, and traffic lights. Even if it seems long, the detour is optimized for all users. However, some people will try another route, which creates traffic jams in places we didn’t predict.”

Our two Traffic Engineers agree that a major challenge in Montreal is the density of the road network. “Outside the city, detours can stretch up to many kilometres, so even if users have to extend their route by 15 or 20 minutes, the detour is still manageable. In the city, each detour has an impact on another part of the network. This creates a domino effect that we have to manage either by revamping the detour routes or managing lane reductions in the network a few kilometres in advance. ”

Marie-Michèle adds, “We’re aware of the impact of work on people’s lives, as we use the road too. But in the current context, with more and more work to do and heavier and heavier vehicle traffic, there is no miracle solution.”

“What gives me the most pride is the feeling that we truly make a difference in people’s lives every day, even if they don’t always know it,” concludes Olivier.