Nearly a dozen groups – from environmentalists to engineers to healthcare professionals – have banded together to press for more changes to the province’s Turcot Interchange plans, changes which would reduce the number of cars using the structure and provide public transit alternatives during and after completion of the new Turcot.
The ten organizations, including Équiterre, the Conseil régional de l’environnement, Transport 2000, the Réseau des ingénieurs du Québec, and the Association canadienne des médécins pour l’environnement, are demanding that Quebec announce concrete investments in public transit alternatives before construction starts in 2012 in order to prevent traffic chaos during the six-year work period and encourage greener habits over the long-term. Specifically, they are calling for more commuter train service to the West Island, a tramway line between the Lachine and Lasalle boroughs and downtown, and the long-delayed shuttle train link between Trudeau airport in Dorval and downtown. Florence Junca-Adenot, the former head of the AMT regional transit authority, stressed the urgency in pursuing these projects prior to the Turcot reconstruction. “If well thought-out,” says Junca-Adenot, these measures “will be permanent.” We would reduce traffic congestion and cut car use by about 20 percent, she says, and “kill two birds with one stone.” Presently, Quebec’s redesigned Turcot plans would cost $3 billion and lead to an increased car capacity, up to 304,000 daily from the estimated 290,000 that now use it every day.
The coalition will meet every month, and intends to meet frequently with Transport Minister Sam Hamad to press for more improvements to the plans. They also plan to meet regularly with the City of Montreal, as well as the borough administrations, the opposition parties and the Montreal Department of Public Health. These latter two, as well as the Sud-Ouest borough administration where the Turcot is situated, have all announced their opposition to the plans, assailing its lack of public transit and its nefarious health effects on the residents of Saint-Henri.
Both of Montreal’s opposition parties have said they will table motions in city council calling for the plans to be revised further or scrapped. Louise Harel’s Vision Montréal says its motion will denounce the fact that “the Transport Department has prioritized the automobile at the cost of public transit and the health and quality of life of the citizens of the Sud-Ouest (borough).” The motion will demand that Mayor Tremblay “vigorously defend” projects more in line with Montreal’s transportation plan, and call on the Quebec government to design a plan with more public transit and no expropriations (the current plan will evict tenants from four buildings in Saint-Henri).
Projet Montréal, whose leader Richard Bergeron resigned from his post on the executive committee in protest over the province’s Turcot plan and the Mayor’s newfound support for it, will simply call on the Mayor to reject the plan outright. While on the Mayor’s executive committee, Bergeron pushed an alternative plan for Turcot which would have heavily integrated public transit and reduced car capacity by 20-40%, as well as avoided the need for expropriations owing to its more compact circular raised design. The $6 billion plan, which received the support of all parties on city council as well as the city’s Department of Public Health, was immediately dismissed by Quebec as too costly.