It is one of the major road works currently in Occitania. The A61 motorway is being widened in two sections: 14 km around Villefranche-de-Lauragais, in Haute-Garonne, and 20 km between Lézignan-Corbières and Narbonne. The two busiest sections of this axis that Toulouse residents often take to get to the shores of the Mediterranean.
We can have 80,000 vehicles passing through there. And in the middle, we have to do a construction site
Near Villefranche-de-Lauragais, the construction area is wedged between the two directions of traffic, protected by barriers. Working here is already a feat, explains Frédéric Cauvin, director of operations at Vinci Autoroutes: “in peak periods, we can have 80,000 vehicles passing through there. And in the middle of all that, we have to carry out a construction site with several tens or even hundreds of companions who work. So we find ourselves in an extremely constrained configuration“.
The noise, and the breath of heavy goods vehicles
Helmets on their heads, fluorescent vests, workers have to deal with the comings and goings of machinery on the site, but also with the noise of traffic, and the heavyweights that graze metal barriers. Guillaume Fraile is Midi Toulousain district manager at Vinci Autoroutes: “we have a speed limit (at 90 km/h) to allow the work to be carried out properly. We have put in place special procedures to intervene in complete safety, but also to guarantee the safety of all users of the A61.“.
In some places, the site is well advanced, and we are already laying a first layer of bitumen, five centimeters. Another integrated machine the central concrete barrier, in a single blockon the central reservation.
One would think that the end of the construction site starting in 2019 is close, but not quite. If the bitumen should be finished before next summer, we will have to wait a few more months, explains Frédéric Cauvin: “a highway is not just a roadway. It’s also safety devices: concrete waterfalls, signaling, passing networks, so it’s very technically complex. Before opening, you have to make sure that everything meets the standards in force.“.
A highway is not just a roadway
But we are closer to the end than the beginning: on the section in Haute-Garonne, commissioning is scheduled for the end of 2022. It will be necessary to wait until the end of 2023 for the complete opening of the Aude section, on the Narbonne side.