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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Tremblay and Bergeron unveil alternative Turcot Interchange project

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An illustration of the City’s proposed Turcot Interchange reconstruction.

Today Mayor Tremblay and Richard Bergeron, responsible for urban planning on the Executive Committee, presented the City of Montreal’s alternative Turcot interchange projet to the general public during an afternoon presentation and news conference. This counter proposal was submitted to the Ministry of Transport a few weeks back, but has up until this point been confidential. Negotiations with the Ministry are ongoing, and City officials decided to go public with their plan in an attempt to inform the public of their efforts and to rally support behind their position.

The City plan proposes that Turcot be rebuilt as a circular interchange, which would have the benefit of being much more compact than the Ministry of Transport’s project. As a result, the design would not require the expropriation and demolition of any existing properties, contrary to the Ministry’s proposal which would involve the destruction of housing on Cazelais street in Saint-Henri. A circular Turcot would even free up some land currently occupied by the current interchange, allowing for new construction projects.

The counter proposal would include dedicated lanes for public transit, as well a two lanes for general traffic in each direction. It would maintain the existing capacity on the north-south axis, and reduce it on the east-west axis, unlike the Ministry proposal which proposes increases.

A circular interchange in Shanghai.

The City proposal situates the rebuilding of the Turcot as part of a broader revitalisation plan of the old industrial areas in the Sud-Ouest. As a second stage, the City proposes turning the Falaise Saint-Jacques into a new nature park, and building a new neighbourhood on the old rail yards. This “Quartier de la falaise” would be linked to the rest of the city by a new tramway line, going from Lachine, through the Sud-ouest and on to Downtown.

The location of the proposed “Quartier de la falaise”, highlighted in red.

The presentation of the counter proposal was an example of a multi-party Executive Committee that works. Tremblay and Bergeron worked in tandem, with Tremblay explaining the general context and then passing the microphone over to Bergeron to explain the details and sell the project to the public. The content of the proposal was in classic Projet Montréal style, full of examples from other cities around the world that have dealt with similar urban planning challenges.

Politically, this plan seems to have near unanimous support on City Council. It’s a creation of Richard Bergeron and Mayor Tremblay, and it thus has their parties’ support. Louise Harel has come out in support of the proposal, and Benoît Doré, the Vision mayor of the Sud-Ouest, said that the proposal shows that another Turcot is possible and called on all Montrealers to unite behind it.

While the City of Montreal is a partner, the rebuilding of the interchange is entirely the responsibility of the Ministry of Transport. The City has taken an active role in asserting its vision because of the consequences the project will have on adjactent neighbourhoods and the city as a whole. As Mayor Tremblay said, “This project will have a major impact on the quality of life of Montrealers for decades to come… it isn’t in the middle of a field, it’s in the middle of a city.”  It remains to be seen how the Ministry will modify its plans in light of this proposed alternative. An official response is expected in the coming weeks.

Update: The presentation for the City of Montreal’s proposal can be found here.


  1. Wonderful! I’ll put the link in the post.

  2. Very interesting, i’m quite surprised such a “out of the box” idea was even considered.

    At the very least the sketch-up model really appeals to me. In addition to its transport effects, it could potentially be a bit of a architectural landmark, if done right.

    seems like having an urban planner in city hall is having some effects.

  3. It looks much more tidy, but this thing will be a traffic nightmare! People can barely change lanes on a straight road, asking them to merge into a circle and exit in time will make this place an accident hot spot.

  4. @Jack: It’s not a traffic circle, it’s just a bunch of ramps that taken together look like a circle. If you are staying on the same road (A-15 or A-20/A-720) you just go straight, and if you are changing roads you follow a ramp that goes around the circle directly to the road you want to take.

  5. This is way too radical to ever be considered seriously, but I think Montreal should be moving towards banning cars from the island, ramping up public transport so that anyone can get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time, and using the MASSIVE amounts of space that would be freed for urban renewal, social housing, and other worthwhile projects. Make it so I can reliably get from NDG to the West Island in half an hour, and I’d gladly pay double, even triple current STM prices. Freeing the roads would also encourage an explosion in cycling and other alternative methods of transport… but I’m just dreaming. I’ll be breathing the fumes from the Decarie for the rest of my life, I’m sure.

    This is better than the current Turcot design, but it’s still a giant cars-only no-mans land with no provisions for cyclists or pedestrians. A big ugly pollution-maker. Yay.

  6. In the presentation the photos showing life under expressways in different cities is a really great compilation…it shows how we can be creative with our present infrastructure – and a highway doesn’t necessarily mean a dead zone.
    Toronto could learn a lesson too with it’s Gardiner expressway.

  7. This is very impressive, although way too good to be true. Still, it will send a message to the provincial ministry that a change in attitude towards cars is necessary. It can only lead to a more positive outcome, even if not all of it is implemented.

  8. Thanks for this excellent summary.

    @Jack – I don’t believe the plan is for a giant roundabout – it more looks like stacked exit and entry ramps in a circular shape.

  9. This is very progressive and impressive, although way too good to be true. Still, it will send a message to the provincial ministry that a change in attitude towards cars is necessary. It can only lead to a more positive outcome, even if not all of it is implemented. Overall, it gives me pride to know that our local government is thinking in this direction and is united in its efforts.

  10. Montreal could be a great place for a congestion charge a la Singapore and London. It’s only a matter of time before New York has one too. With your excellent rail system, I think it would work there.

  11. Had better look at the pdf, and yes it appears there’s proper lane dedication for each direction, but it might still be tricky to navigate through for first time, similar to what the Rockland/40 underpass.

    @Tux: “Banning cars from the island?” I hope you’re just trolling, your ideas are ambitious and unfeasible.

    “using the MASSIVE amounts of space that would be freed for urban renewal, social housing, and other worthwhile projects” — We have plenty of vacant space in the city that no one wants to build on. Because there’s no demand for it or it makes no sense financially. Not to mention all the ridiculous height restrictions around the island. And as far as urban renew/public housing goes, you need money, specifically TAX MONEY. 20% of the population pays the majority of the taxes in the province. That same population already works for 6 months out a year for free, and gives the money they earned to the government who misuses those funds to provide work for 500,000 government workers, of whom a good chunk is inefficient and incompetent, but can’t be fired due to strong labor laws.

    “Make it so I can reliably get from NDG to the West Island in half an hour, and I’d gladly pay double, even triple current STM prices.” — So you would be willing to pay 9$ each way for a bus pass or 210$ for a monthly pass? Great, but the majority of the population would not.

    “Freeing the roads would also encourage an explosion in cycling and other alternative methods of transport… but I’m just dreaming. I’ll be breathing the fumes from the Decarie for the rest of my life, I’m sure.” — When you grow up and start a family you will realize that buying groceries and getting your kids from school on a bicycle during the 6 months of winter that we have is not ideal.

  12. I avoid the Sources – 20 circular interchange because it’s too dangerous. If this is the same multiplied by 10, it’s a nightmare.

    The falaise has wildlife because people are not interested. Bring people near it, wildlife is out. Simple as that.

    Anyone is really interested to live in the Turcot yards ? The highway and the trains will still be really near, the falaise will still have the same height, you won’t take some stairs to go to the Loblaws. And anyway St-Jacques has nothing to show for itself. And across the highway and the canal, it’s a long way over industrial and empty spaces to get to residential areas. So it would be a tiny enclave surounded by nothing interesting. Better put the public money into already residential areas that need it, leave that empty space to the MTQ. Or better, refill it with water and frogs, like in the Lac St-Pierre days.

  13. What is all that other stuff holding up the ramps (or is it decorating it)? It looks kind of like the roman coliseum.

    There is no doubt that this is a better design for Montreal, particularly because it involves reducing east west motor-vehicle capacity, replacing it with much-needed transit. It should go further: high speed bus or rail to the west-island.

    Why do we have to “build” so much more? Can’t the worst pieces be replaced, the moderately bad pieces be fixed, and the rest be monitored for the safety of all users? Then, the city and province spend the immense amounts of money saved on actually getting resident input to generate “first principles” for the project from all boroughs and municipalities affected and their collaborative work. Likely, it will turn into gradual, reduced vehicle capacity, replaced with rapid transit and genuine neighbourhood development. Perhaps something a bit more Pierre Gauthier and Pierre Brisset unveiled on March 28, 2010.
    (Or for a great resource on this issue, visit

    What Montreal has produced is a single design in response to the MTQ’s unwavering and backward-looking (single) design. No options given. How paternalistic?

    We deserve a better process that is open and collaborative.

  14. This new design has a lot more elevated structures (6 times more according to the city’s PDF plan) which do not seem to fare all that well in the Quebec climate. I am afraid that not only is this new plan going to be more expensive to build, it is also going to be more expensive to maintain.

  15. Jack, I don’t know, you sound more like a troll than me.

    My ideas are ambitious yes, but not impossible. Yes, the money would have to come from somewhere. I propose we tax the hell out of people who keep a vehicle on the island during the first oh, say 10-15 years of the first stage of the ban. (It would have to be a slow phase-out) Get rid of your car (the provincial government could maybe buy our cars off us in exchange for a tax credit and use the raw materials) and not only would you pay LESS tax, you’d have more income since you’re not paying for insurance, license, maintenance, etc. A good percentage of that new income can go directly into our tax coffers in the form of paying a lot more for public transport. We already pay some of the lowest prices in Canada for our transport, and it shows, let’s face it, the STM sucks, but if they were solely responsible for moving people around the city, and were given the money to do it and an infrastructure mostly empty of cars, my guess is that they’d be up to the task.

    As for your argument against alternative transport… winter? That’s all you’ve got? Dude, its called the bus (imagine our highways repurposed as bus-only express routes) and metro. They’re heated and stuff. Remember those things you had before your grocery bills and kids constant annoying chatter brought you down? Optimism and imagination?

    I’m not saying anyone should put me in charge, or that my ideas wouldn’t totally blow up and not work, I am no expert, all I know is that what we’re doing to move ourselves around the city doesn’t work really well for anyone. If we’re not willing to try out new ideas we’ll never progress. What’s so great about cars anyway?

  16. I love the park Tremblay/Bergeron see at the bottom of Falaise Saint-Jacques.

  17. I haven’t looked into this project in depth but at a glance it looks like a win-win. A new nature park, interesting highway design, new developments, and a desperately needed link between Lachine and downtown.

  18. C’est le type de projet qui plaira à tous ceux qui font partie de la société secrète Nostalgie 67-76 dont les 3 chefs de partis montréalais font visiblement partie! Une méga-structure de béton qui va amplifier les décibels des milliers de voitures qui vont passer par là chaque jour. Un projet qui fait du bruit et qui entrainera des retombées (de poussière!). Car plus on élèvera le projet, plus le bruit et la poussière voyageront loin. Pas exactement le type de rayonnement qu’on voudrait que le projet aie.

    L’argument pour ce projet “ultra-moderne”: le développement durable! Wow! Développement tout court si vous voulez mon avis. On cherche désespérément à diminuer l’empreinte de l’autoroute pour pouvoir construire des habitations le plus près possible du projet d’échangeur. Ça ne fait aucun sens. Ça va à l’encontre des enjeux de santé publics et d’environnement contrairement à ce que certains membres du PQ avancent. Il y a des limites au développement.

    En plus, on dirait le Colisée de Rome.On pourrait y organiser des matches de combats extrêmes pour financer l’entretien tant qu’à y être. C’est tout un cirque qu’on nous sert.

    Suggestion tout aussi grandiose et radicale: qu’ils fassent un échangeur souterrain. Un pourra construire par dessus si on y tient vraiment.

  19. Thanks for that video, the 3 stooges were hilarious, my favorite was the one on the right. I like his dedication to humping the desk while trying desperately not faint. Honestly creepiest s*** I’ve seen in a while, and these guy’s were elected!

    I like the underground idea Alex, it’s the best thing I heard so far.

  20. Oh and let’s not forget the one on the left, he appears to be rehearsing the exact words he’ll use to proclaim his love of the fat bald guy in the middle.

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