CASE. A61 Toulouse-Narbonne motorway: completion of works soon… and traffic jams?

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Started in 2019, the works to widen two sections of the A61 motorway between Toulouse and Narbonne to three lanes are expected to be completed this summer. The end of drafts for users? Maybe… We still need to be careful because the traffic there is increasingly intense, as happened during the recent Ascension Bridge.

Thursday 18 May 2023, first day of the Ascension Bridge. The inhabitants of Toulouse, accustomed for years to taking advantage of the May bridges to make the leap into the Mediterranean, take the A61 in the thousands in the direction of Narbonne.

But for four years, upstream from Villefranche-de-Lauragais, work has been underway at the junction of the A66 towards Andorra. The stretch, limited to 90 km/h out of 14 kilometres, is a delicate passage for motorists, because traffic jams form at the slightest breakdown. And with 60,000 vehicles per day during heavy traffic, that’s the guarantee of ten times the journey time. This is how a little over a week ago, in the middle of the day, it took 2h40 to reach the sea instead of 1h10…

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But soon after four years and many adventures, the work should finally be completed. This was announced by Vinci Autoroutes, the concessionaire, which promises to deliver the last stretches of motorway under construction “in the summer of 2023”. The chronology remains unclear. It’s still impossible to tell motorists they’ll be able to drive out of work for their big holiday getaway, but the news remains a relief.

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Because the delivery could have been further delayed: at the beginning of 2022, a dispute pitted Vinci against Spie Batignolles, who was in charge of the works. The latter declares that she has not been paid and decides to leave the construction sites in April. Only ten months later, last February and a new call for tenders launched two months earlier, the works were able to resume. In addition to the Villefranche-de-Lauragais portion, 10 kilometers remain to be delivered near Lézignan, in the Aude part, upstream of the junction with the A9.

Of course, the two-lane sections will remain, especially between Port-Lauragais and Lézignan, but this motorway, so busy and subject to traffic density constraints, could finally find some peace of mind during important departures, such as for this weekend Pentecost begins.

Users can only be satisfied, those who have seen, in parallel with the journeys made more tiring by the works, that the increase in tolls does not slow down, for their part…

+20% tolls in five years

In 2018, it was enough to pay 12.80 euros to travel the 143 kilometers of the A61. Today, after the last increase applied on 1 February, the toll has risen to 15.30 euros, an increase of almost 20% in less than five years. Enough to make motorists shiver, who pay more every year for a service that deteriorates as attendance increases. For its part, the concessionaire claims to have invested 200 million euros to finance the work.

However, the Occitans have not finished the motorway works. Already because those of the A61 are not finished yet and that, in the absence of a precise timetable, they could very well contract out the Autoroute des Deux Mers for the whole summer. But also because, when one page is about to close, another is about to open.

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INTERVIEW. A61 Toulouse-Narbonne motorway: “Summer 2023 remains the goal and the finish line”, confirms Vinci Autoroutes

Thus, on the A68 that connects Toulouse to Albi, new works have been started since the beginning of May aimed at renewing the carriageway for more than 17 kilometers in both directions. Major works affecting the stretch that separates Toulouse and Gémil, and which should last until September. Vinci Autoroutes, which is also a concessionaire, announced that it has implemented a program aimed at disrupting traffic as little as possible, concentrating work at night. The highway will simply be closed during these times.

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