No debate on the Notre Dame highway

This story slipped through Spacing Montreal’s normally impenetrable news-fishing net, but I’ve managed to retrieve it. On Sunday, Bruno Bisson reported in La Presse that last week’s consultations on the Notre Dame highway project failed to offer any chance for debate about the plan’s fundamentals. No specific details were offered and residents did not have a chance to engage with officials about their concerns. I’ll quote his article at length because it’s pretty revealing:

Mercredi dernier, le ministère des Transports du Québec (MTQ) et la Ville de Montréal recevaient la population locale à la Maison de la culture Mercier pour connaître son opinion au sujet de la piste cyclable, de l’aménagement sécuritaire des parcs et de la couleur des murs antibruit. En granit gris foncé, avec motif de briques rouges ou en matière translucide?

La tenue de cette consultation découle d’un décret adopté en 2002 par le gouvernement du Québec pour favoriser la construction d’un «boulevard urbain» en prolongement de l’autoroute Ville-Marie, qui s’étend sur neuf kilomètres entre le pont Jacques-Cartier et l’autoroute 25.

Ce décret posait 19 conditions au ministère des Transports et à la Ville de Montréal pour l’obtention des permis de construction. La tenue de cette consultation en est une. Le décret ne précisait toutefois pas la formule à privilégier pour les consultations. Celle préconisée par la firme privée Convercité, qui organise cette consultation, est pour le moins originale.

En plus de fournir très peu d’informations – ni études ni analyses – sur l’augmentation du débit de circulation, du niveau de bruit ou de la pollution atmosphérique, la formule de la consultation n’offre aucune possibilité de débats ou d’interactions avec les divers spécialistes qui ont participé à la conception de ce projet.

Le caractère très limité de ces consultations, qui concernent davantage les questions d’aménagement entourant l’infrastructure plutôt que les caractéristiques du projet routier lui-même, n’a toutefois pas empêché une centaine de personnes de questionner l’ensemble du concept proposé par le MTQ et la Ville de Montréal, a constaté La Presse au cours de cette assemblée publique.

(…)

De nombreux experts du MTQ et de la Ville étaient sur les lieux. Mais ils ne s’adressaient jamais directement aux gens. Lorsque surgissait une question d’ordre technique (par exemple: comment fera-t-on pour accéder à l’ancienne Tonnellerie, un monument patrimonial qui sera réaménagé au sud du futur boulevard?), l’animateur de la table brandissait un carton jaune.

Ce signal alertait aussitôt un des hôtes de la consultation – qui assistaient aux discussions en retrait -, qui prenait alors copie écrite de la question et disparaissait dans une salle voisine, avant de revenir avec une réponse écrite, lue à la table par l’animateur, et qui retrouvait ensuite les notes du secrétaire. Aucune copie de la réponse écrite n’était fournie à la table.

Si, au fil des thèmes et des points de discussion, les participants jouent volontiers le jeu de la discussion, posément et sans éclat de voix, aucun d’entre eux n’a émis le moindre commentaire positif à l’égard du projet en une heure et demie de rencontre. Des coups de sonde lancés par La Presse auprès de participants aux autres tables ont révélé la même insatisfaction générale.

As you’ll recall, Montreal and the province want to convert Notre Dame St. from downtown to Highway 25 into an “urban boulevard.” Judging by the plans, though, it bears more resemblance to a limited-access urban expressway. Whether this is a good thing or not is up for debate, and that’s exactly the point — shouldn’t there be some kind of public debate about this?

A number of residents have expressed their opposition to the project and have even presented an alternate vision that would place greater emphasis on re-integrating Notre Dame into its adjacent neighbourhoods. At the very least, their idea should be taken into account by the municipal and provincial governments. Otherwise, what’s the point of even consulting the public in the first place?

Photo by Sébastien Yaher

10 comments

  1. can’t find the reference but yesterday’s Devoir featured an article by Louise-Maude Rioux-Soucy (hope I spelled that one correclty) about what Direction de la Santé Publique thinks of this project – needless to say: nothing good…

    maybe in the end there *will* be some more reasonable thinking?

  2. “Otherwise, what’s the point of even consulting the public in the first place?”

    exactly… whats the point of holding debates just for the heck of it… let’s build the damn thing and get this over with… friggin nimbys.

  3. Nimbys? How would you like your neighbourhood destroyed by a highway out of the 1960s? Usually the term “nimbys” is used to describe people rather more prosperous than the citizens of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

    Increasing access to vehicle traffic just means more private vehicles, when what is needed is better public transport in the area, not to mention a return to the train for goods transport.

    I’m bloody sick of Malek’s worship of the car. Takes us back to mid-last century, with all the destruction that form of development has caused to the urban form.

  4. ooh “you’re sick”. lets not turn this into personnal attacks Maria and keep to the subject.

    No homes will be torn down, where did you get that? Actually, these people will benefit from less traffic going directly thru HOMA because Notre Dame is dangerously over capacity.

    On the long run, they will be better off.

    And I am calling them nimbys because i have extensivly read their pleas and its clear as crystal that they’re just looking for their individual (your collectivist sould should see thru that) intrests by wanting no roads and no port either in their neighbourhood.

    more private vehicles hahahhah girl… take your mid 19th century marxism to cuba!

  5. Actually, I was thinking more of Amsterdam, a city I visit often for work reasons. And perhaps best known as an early crucible of commercial capitalism, not Marxism. Every old house boasts a hoist used by the merchants of the day.

    Montréal becoming Cuba is not a credible threat, but reverting to more Décarie expressway-era destruction remains one.

    Considering I have often spoken of belonging to Le Monde à Bicyclette since its origin circa 1975, “girl” makes up for all the nastiness. I said “sick of” (tired of, fed up with), I did not accuse you of being “sick” (mad, twisted). I don’t know anything about you personally, but I am more than familiar with the extent to which misuse of the car is destroying the urban form and promoting soulless sprawl. We can come up with more creative solutions for our city and its inhabitants.

  6. Maria, if the highway was cutting through a neighbourhood, you might have a point. Being the qualified “expert” you are, you would have realized that the “autoroute” you speak of (which from the plans seems more like La Verendyre Boulevard rather than Decarie or the Met) is not going to destroy any neighbourhood. What is the neighbourhood going to be cut off from? The port of montreal, which is mostly industrial anyways? That already cuts off Hochelaga from the waterfront, putting a high capacity road there won’t do much except funneling much of the non-local traffic from the east end into a single high capacity road. Do you honestly think Montreal would be a better city without highways? Without a quick way getting people and goods from point a to point b, the montreal economy would stagnate, which is a bad thing because our economy has a history of not doing so well. Although urban neighbourhoods are nice, common sense has to come into play. I don’t blame you for making the claim you did, but I do blame you for being ignorant. You should really know better.

    Also, Notre Dame, if youve ever been on, is dangerously overcrowded, due to both cars using it to go to south shore/east end, as well as trucks delivering commercial goods (because, you see, trucks can’t take the metro).

    You share the same fault all these “new-age urbanists” have, and its the fact you see the world in black and white. If it’s not pedestrian friendly, then its the autoroute from hell. If it doesnt have mass transit, its soulless sprawl. You are no better than the people in the opposite end of the spectrum who oppose the things you support. Only people without your closed mindedness, who realize the world is a shade of grey rather than just black and white, will be able to grasp relatively simple notions that not everyone in Montreal takes the STM, and that there needs to be efficent transportation of goods for our society to function.

    So please, just step back, open your eyes, and actually see for the first time. Thanks

  7. “our economy has a history of not doing so well” says Marc
    Common, stop saying we are poor, I’m gonna cry. Montreal region (include Montérégie, Laurentide et Lanaudière):
    PIB $ 168 792 Millions
    Population: 4 591 272
    PIB/hab: $ 36 763 (compare to USA: $44 178) not bad!

    Before you blame Maria for being ignorant, maybe you should ask yourselves why you have the common sense of 1960’s urbanist! Dude, we’re in 2008! You should wake up! It’s a proven fact worlwide that urban highways send neighborhoods to decay, and grow the outskirts of cities with the big donut hole phenomena.

    If you really think there is only one way of developping this city and it’s making more highways, maybe you are the one that should know better. Urban designers have come to a common solution that we need to develop the quartier-centre based on a better offer of public tranportation to make them safer, cleaner and last but no least more beautifull. If you want to propose a quality of life to the people who have the guts to stay in the center, you need to regard their needs first, not the needs of suburban car addicted petroleum suckers like you.

    Do you work for Ciment Saint-Laurent for %$/” sake?

  8. Marc, maybe the ignorant is yourself? You don’t seem to know that Notre-Dame had been destroyed in 1972 and that the limits of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve is NOT Notre-Dame, but the port. With the highway, the limit would become… Notre-Dame. So, once again, the territory would shrivel and the people would lose. People from these neighbourhoods have not forget the massive destructions of the seventies and they don’t want to forget it. They want to have reparations for the wrongs they have suffered. They don’t want to have 150000 cars a day right beside them and, most of all, they think that their struggle will benefit all the city of Montreal, who needs urgently to weave again its urban center.

    Moreover, we have to ask ourselves if the port has to stay exactly in its actual limits. Indeed, the part that is between the bridge and Viau Street is not very well used…

    There is a lot of solutions to the problem of mobility and fluidity and among these solutions, an autoroute is really not the best.

    So I want to say… step back, open your eyes and actually see for the first time!

  9. ladies and gentlemen,

    I enjoy reading your debating on this site.

    Both sides have very good points. However, sometimes in life we need to look at the big picture… Building the Autoroute would be the best possible solution for east-end development.

    People need to stop thinking aesthetics and start thinking logics. It would be a good idea to invest in public transportation rather than the highway but the bottom line is that public transportation will not make travel times any shorter. People need to be able to travel to work in acceptable times and to to assure continuous economic growth, it would be optimal to permit companies to deliver their goods in acceptable time-frames. As some of you have already stated, trucks cannot use the STM…

    Also what is important to understand is that the city of Montreal is in a “point of no return” when it comes to city planning. The city has so poorly been planned out in the past that it would cost way to much to come back and carry out massive public transit campaigns. It is something that the province cannot afford with the state that our health care and education is in. It will cost taxpayers way less to build the highway than to build new public transit routes.

    Back in the 1960’s it would have been the time to propose public transit but it’s too late for that now.

    The highway is the best way to go no matter what people say. It will not separate any neighbourhoods like Decarie did. Anyway, the neighbourhood is ugly enough as it is, I don’t think a highway will make Hochelaga any worse thank it already is with all the factories and the port on the waterfront.

    Travel times need to prevail. Time is money. Highway it will need to be…

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