Following five years of works under Vinci Autoroutes programme management, the new section of the A9 motorway at Montpellier has just been opened more than six months ahead of the original schedule. The opening capped France’s largest motorway project in recent years. Vinci Autoroutes financed the €800 million investment and more than 300 companies and 1,500 people were involved in the project during the peak construction period.
The new section was opened at night when traffic is lighter so as to cause minimum disruption. Nearly 230 people worked overnight on 29 May to open the section in the direction of Lyon and on 30 May to open the section towards Béziers and Barcelona. It took two nights to commission the full range of traffic management, monitoring, backlit signage and other safety and toll systems.
The Montpellier stretch of the A9 motorway carries some of the French motorway’s heaviest traffic – more than 100,000 vehicles per day on average and up to 170,000 at the beginning and end of the summer holiday season.
The newly commissioned A9 section will improve driving conditions along the heavily trafficked artery, which connects Spain with the rest of Europe, by separating through and local traffic. Through traffic will use the “new A9”, with a dual three-lane carriageway; local traffic will use the “old A9” (now called the A709), which will become an urban motorway.
To ensure optimum safety conditions, the new A9 has been equipped with state-of-the-art safety systems. Full video surveillance is provided, along with a dynamic traffic control system and a service access ramp system – unique in France – that enables emergency, operations and towing vehicles to reach traffic lanes that are inaccessible via conventional junctions or access roads. In addition to on-call personnel, five “men in yellow” motorway patrollers will be specially assigned to monitor the new section by 24-hour period. Toll barriers have also been re-designed to provide smoother traffic flow over the entire section, including elimination of the toll station at the Saint Jean de Védas junction and introduction of Montpellier’s first non-stop toll lanes.