Upgrading the RN79 trunk road to motorway standards, the future A79.
To bring together and involve all the stakeholders, this ambitious project has been given the name Axelia, from the French for ‘major Atlantic link road’. Evoking the motorway as the link between spaces and people, towns, cities and inhabitants, the name also embodies the project’s ambitious scope and values.
The RN79 is currently known as the RCEA (Central Europe-Atlantic Route), and is a major trunk road both locally and on the European scale. It is the main road crossing the Allier department, linking the towns in the department. On the national and international level, the RN79 is a major East-West transversal link from Royan on the Atlantic coast to the Rhône valley and beyond, towards Germany, Switzerland and Italy. On an average day, between 10,000 and 15,000 vehicles use it, 40% of which are HGVs.
The varying uses cause major traffic disruptions, making the RN79 particularly accident-prone. The project to upgrade it to a motorway was therefore declared as being of public utility by ministerial decree of 22 April 2017, accompanied by a strong “Priority on safety” message.
From Sazeret (Allier) in the west to Digoin (Saône-et-Loire) in the east, 88 km of the RN79 will gradually be transformed from two single lanes to a two-lane dual carriageway. Several structures will be upgraded to the latest safety standards or will be demolished. At the height of its activity, this substantial construction project will mobilise more than 1,200 people, illustrating the Eiffage group’s multi-tasking expertise.
Other major challenges of the project are respect for the environment and ecological transparency. Free-flow tolling, water treatment and maintenance, and creating wildlife corridors are some of the techniques that will be implemented to help prevent, reduce and compensate project impact.
The A79 motorway will bring in a major innovation: free-flow tolling, a system that avoids the need for barriers across traffic lanes and instead uses gantries fitted with cameras reading registration plates and electronic toll system badges. These gantries are part of a smart system that associates a vehicle or badge to a bank account, thereby automating transactions and meaning that drivers do not have to stop at toll booths. The system is already in use in some European countries, the A79 will be the first motorway in France to employ this free-flow toll technology contributing to a smoother flow of traffic.
Axelia is a substantial project that aims to make this road link to the Atlantic coast a fluid, safe and innovative motorway for everyone.