Turcot activists to Charest: Be coherent!

M.-Charest-soyez-cohérent1

With the sun setting on the hazy evening commute home today, activists from the Conseil Régionale de l’Environnement (CRE) on the St. Jacques overpass of the Decarie highway sent a message to the Premier, and the thousands of cars passing below.

Specifically, they were protesting the Ministry of Transport’s plan for the Turcot, which will increase the capacity of the highway complex from 280 000 to 330 000 cars per day, or by about 18%. The CRE comes at this issue with a focus on climate change, highlighting that 49% of Montreal’s greenhouse gases come from transport (and growing).

The CRE, with the support of about 50 other organizations, is pushing for an alternative strategy, which includes several transit projects already proposed but stalled in the implementation, as well as a reduction in auto dependency in the east-west corridor. They suggest a few interesting possibilities, notably by removing lanes from the Ville Marie and rebuilding the 20 west of the Turcot as an urban boulevard with transit and more land use mix. There is also a section on improving the integration of transport infrastructure in the Southwest of Montreal.

On the whole, the proposal reveals a good understanding of the complex issues involved, and is well worth a look.

If it seems like the Turcot has been featured on Spacing Montreal a lot lately, that’s because it has, and for good reason. A pivotal moment in this saga is approaching, as the Minister of the Environment prepares to release her recommendations on the MTQ’s project no later than November 11. This will set the tone on how the Government ultimately proceeds.

There are three scenarios to watch out for: a green light pure-and-simple, which says that Charest is prepared to ignore the opposition to the plan by almost the entire city; a red light, which would send the MTQ back to the drawing board and would constitute an outright rebuke to their auto-oriented priorities; or a green light with several recommended changes to the project.

I predict the latter, but the devil’s in the details: cosmetic changes only (no PPP, reserved bus lanes, an extra couple meters along the Falaise St. Jacques) is effectively a rubber stamp. More significant changes (reduced auto capacity, a parallel transit project, protecting the residents of Cazelais from demolition) will suggest that someone is Quebec City is getting the message.

Mark your calendars: Remembrance Day is going to be extra important in Montreal this year.

3 comments

  1. I’ve read Montreal at the Crossroads and am all for decreasing auto use / increasing transit in the corridor and generally improving the Turcot situation, but it’s going to be extremely hard to convince people that turning the 20 West of the Turcot into an urban boulevard is a good thing. The 720 into the city, maybe, and the Bonaventure, surely, but the 20 West? It’s just such a wasteland at the moment that nobody has an attachment to the area. I personally lean to the extreme of advocating more transit use and density increases in conjunction with traffic calming, but the one thing I can say, is that if the plan is to turn the 20 West into an urban boulevard akin to the 20 West in Dorion, with lights-a-plenty and a mediocre streetscape, I’m not for it, at all. One of the worst streets in Quebec, the 20 through Dorion. Right now the 20 West is a place where you floor it and go as fast as humanly possible, as the landscape is second to none in ugliness. Montreal sure seems to have a fascination with turning freeways into urban boulevards at the moment, but urban boulevards, even with their illustrated crowds of people mingling among shiny new buildings, ain’t always the nicest places either. The traffic flows and scale means they’re often just as vapid and inhumane as they freeways they replace. The only way to pull off an urban boulevardization of the 20 West will be via an extremely high-quality and fast public transit service to placate West Islanders, and a ultra captivating land use plan to inspire the rest of the city. Otherwise, the public will simply not accept the idea of traffic lights on this bizarre stretch of drive-on-the-left motorway. I’m sure there’s still a developer or two left with envelopes full of bribe money for the first politician who’ll turn the land along the lachine canal into condo-attracting residental zoning.

  2. The Turcot Interchange is over 40 years old and near the end of its useful life. This huge concrete structure is crumbling. Rebuilding of the interchange as soon as possible must be a priority. Any delays would be potentially dangerous to claim more lives. Do we need to wait for another De La Concorde overpass tragedy to recur before starting construction?

  3. Mark,
    Nobody is arguing against rebuilding those parts of the Turcot that are structurally unsound and making sure no one gets hurt. But there’s between doing that and rebuilding all the ramps and approaches in a way that actually increases car capacity. This is the crux of the issue

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