East enders oppose the Notre-Dame highway

East end residents aren’t taking too kindly to the changes planned for Notre Dame St. between downtown and Highway 25. La Presse is reporting that a new group, La Coalition pour humaniser la rue Notre-Dame, has been formed to oppose the Notre Dame project. They’ve set up quite a nice blog detailing their alternative vision for the street, which involves creating a “human-scaled” pedestrian space instead of a de facto expressway. Here’s more from today’s La Presse:

Des riverains de la rue Notre-Dame Est, qui ont créé une coalition qui rejette l’aménagement de l’artère en un «axe routier à grand débit», n’ont pas été convaincus, hier soir, par les arguments des ingénieurs du ministère des Transports du Québec venus présenter ce projet dans le quartier Maisonneuve.

La «Coalition pour humaniser la rue Notre-Dame» veut favoriser un renouveau urbain «tel qu’imaginé par de grandes villes tournées vers l’avenir comme Toronto, Portland, Barcelone, Sydney ou Séoul», reprenant la thèse présentée l’été dernier par le chef de Projet Montréal, Richard Bergeron.

M. Bergeron avait dit que la transformation de la rue Notre-Dame Est en un boulevard de huit voies ne convenait pas à un centre-ville touristique et accueillant. Il disait ne pas comprendre pourquoi on ne profite pas de l’occasion pour se doter d’un accès au fleuve, avec un parc riverain à l’est du pont Jacques-Cartier, en lieu et place des quais et des hangars désaffectés et des voies d’assemblage des trains du port de Montréal.

It seems a bit odd that we are still considering the construction of new expressways in urban neighbourhoods, especially since that sort of thing fell out of favour 30 years ago, around the time that the Decarie Expressway was rammed through NDG and Snowdon. The alternative vision presented by the Coalition pour humaniser la rue Notre-Dame is ambitious, but it would ultimately make for a better and more livable city. Don’t you think?

Photos: La Presse and La Coalition pour humaniser la rue Notre-Dame


  1. The alternative plan doesn’t seem very viable. The entire eastern flank of Notre Dame is occupied by active rail lines that serve the port of Montreal. The western flank is barren parkland. The plan would require a massive residential and commercial development of the entire corridor Also, Notre Dame is a major artery that serves truck traffic from East End industrial areas.

    People just don’t like to live next to areas of heavy truck and freight traffic. The port isn’t going anywhere and neither is the traffic. As much as we’d love it if the entire city were covered with nice tree lined streets, served by LRT lines and ample bike paths, it’s just not viable.

  2. Living on the western end of Notre-Dame, which is already a de facto highway with 18-wheeler truck traffic and rush-hour drivers coming to and from access to various bridges, I shudder to think what the impact over here might be of the proposed eastern lane expansion.

    Their proposal is ambitious and a vote of confidence in a sustainable future. It just requires political will and/or a mandate from the people to do it. Is there a party that, if elected, would build it? (Probably Projet Montreal — but would they get stiffed again by Montreal voters? I don’t think we can afford the same old same old anymore.)

  3. Before the cheap-oil fiesta that created highways, and thus empowered freight truck shipping, Montreal pretty much *was* entirely covered with tree-lined streets served by streetcars (and I guess, space for bikes). If it was viable then, why wouldn’t it be viable now, especially as we reach the end of the oil era? If we don’t plan for sustainable alternatives now, they won’t get built…and we’ll be doing a lot of ad hoc improvising around bad situations.

  4. First of all, the photoshopped version of Decarie over a Notre-dame landscape is a bit of a lie. That’s actually NOT what the ciy and the goverment is proposing. It’s a Rush-Hour green light only boulevard.

    I “exit” Notre-dame at Davidson everyday since I live in HoMa so I’m really involve in this plan. I’m also for the change, let’s face it, Montreal is in a good construction boom but we also have to face the fact that a lot of people just come here to work. They live off the island and this wont change with fancy buses and metro. So let’s make life easier for people that live here by getting rid of suburbans as fast as possible.

    the plan offered is a good alternative to the Decarie-type boulevard and once the suburbans are gone, the Notre-Dame is ours again.

    these group have a Utopia that’s a bit out there. the port is right there, from Molson to the east end and guess what it’s not leaving soon, hopefully, it will grow actually. So it is a 18 wheeler section and no one will actually install a shop there. Just look at the matress shop or the now dead car dealership. People are not shopping there.

    so let’s not make beleive there is a issue when there is not. Nothing is happening soon on the south shore of the Notre-Damn (pun intended).

    I’m noticing more and more that the citizen group in which I once beleive are now simply whinning for whinning. Montreal is an island, the “not in my backyard” factor will soon or later fall in your own backyard and sometime, just sometime it’s worth it. (i.e. Notre-Dame, Griffntown)

    PS: Pardonnez mon Anglais, forgive me for my english.

  5. The equation is simple.

    Either you run ahead of the problem and give the suburbans and 18 wheelers a fast way out of the city. But this encourages car culture, which discourages alternatives to car, and the problem will haunt you in a bigger way tomorrow.

    Or, you stop this vicious circle and head towards a smart growth. This means that people will have to change some of their bad habits.

    So in a nutshell: either you plan accordingly to people’s bad habits, or you work towards changing these habits.

    The REAL UTOPIANS are those that think you can sweep this problem under a carpet and keep your hands clean.


  6. Actually, if you looked at the plans proposed by the city and presented on Dec 4th and 5th the photoshopped version is exactly what they’re proposing (remember, the image is of Notre-Dame at Pie-IX). I don’t know why Montreal is so backward on this, but the consensus in the rest of the world is that if you build it cars will fill it. Interestingly enough there seems to be growing proof of traffic evaporation once routes are reclaimed for other uses (pedestrian or public transit). See:

    Another point is that their is a large chunk of the port east of Jacques-Cartier and west of Sucre Lantic that is used solely to assemble trains NOT for loading or unloading of cargo. This does not need to be done here.
    The counter proposal by the community group is ambitious but no more ambitious than building an 8 lane freakin’ highway right beside residential neighborhoods and forever cutting off access to one of Montreal’s biggest potential attractions – the St.Laurence! Trust me, I’ve lived near the Brooklyn-Queens expressway in NYC, it’s crap. The air’s dirty, it’s noisy and your neighborhood gets covered in black dust (as do your lungs).
    The proposed project lacks vision, inovation and any semblance of long term planning (unless you live in Laval). Who is this for?
    The fact is that when things like this get built, they will get filled with traffic. Do you want 4 lanes of traffic or 8 lanes of traffic?
    The 1950’s called, they want their ideas back…

  7. I must say, having participated in the Vision 2050 Greater Helsinki competition it saddens me to think how our various levels of government in this province have a one-track mind and at that a bad one. Greater Helsinki has approximately a quarter of our population in a 60km (1/3 of pie-shaped) radius from the city centre (one of the worst sprawling cities in Europe) yet is capable of offering good reliable public transit options. It has also begun, for some time now, transferring port related activities to the outskirts and offering these parcels of land to real estate development. Further Montreal could simply look to a city like Vancouver and take some notes on their hierarchical transportation priority list and see where roads are located…

    Our inability to realize the mistakes we and other cities have made in the past is perfectly illustrated in the new budget that the city of Montreal has proposed for their new transportation plan where they suggest in the first 5 years 1.76B$ for public transit vs 600M$ (34%) for road infrastructures, 2.24B$ vs 650M$ (29%) respectively for the second 5 year period and 2.72B$ vs 160M$ (6%) in the final 10 year period. Some may say that these ratios (P-T vs Roads) are quite favourable but in my opinion this investment timeline should be reversed and maintain that low 6%, maybe 10% proportion towards road infrastructures throughout.

    Offer a better public transit service immediately which will help convince car users to switch to public transit (as traffic congestion will get worse with our current road network) and if thereafter, creating “urban boulevards” (Bonaventure & Notre-Dame) is warranted, do so but reduce the number of lanes. In both proposed projects they are suggesting 3 car lanes in both direction + 1 reserved bus lane (which apparently outside of peak periods will be used for street parking). How is this supposed to promote a safe pedestrian friendly urban landscape, who in their right mind wants to walk alongside or attempt to cross an 8 lane boulevard? All this non-sense about giving the waterfront back to the citizens but if this were true shouldn’t these new boulevard configurations include mass-transit options to enable all Montrealers to access this new waterfront.

    Move those industries away from the waterfront, urbanize and densify with mixed-uses (COM, OFF, INS & RES) provide for a green-friendly waterfront, minimize car use by offering only 2 lanes in either direction (I would prefer to prohibit cars but it may be too extreme for N-A standards) and implement ground-level accessibility friendly mass-transit to increase and favour pedestrian/cyclist behaviour.

    By the way, they can’t even get it straight for the airport. Build the rail link first and then evaluate your Dorval circle congestion problem.

    From your West Island suburbanite who commutes by train & foot

  8. I’m not impressed with the thinking of the City, but then again, I lived on Boul. des Sources for 30+ years. Man, has that gone through a major change

    It started off a two lane road, but thanks to the combined Dorval/Pointe-Claire industrial park, the road has developed into a 6 lane highway. There was no public consultation then either.

    Trucks could have easily been forced to use Cote de Liesse up to the 40, and exit at Boul des Sources to come south.

    My parents eventually moved from my childhood home, thanks to all the noise.

    About the only positive thing I’ll note was that for now, Both Cities left a nice and wide green area along the sides, to act as a bike and pedestrian path (unless it becomes necessary to add yet more lanes of traffic, in which case those will be reduced to the standard almost on top of the vehicles type sidewalks you see in most urban areas with residences)

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