It was a full house last night at the Gadbois Centre for the information session presented by various community organizations that work directly with the communities that will be most affected by the rebuilding of the Turcot Interchange and it’s offshoot interchanges.
I would like to thank the presenters for their efforts as they are doing something they strongly believe in and have worked very hard to make this evening a great success. Like most people in the non profit sector they are overworked and underpaid, so their efforts are very much appreciated.
Solidarity was a constant theme than came from both the presenters and the participants with their comments and questions. There were a few people from the east end in attendance who are concerned with the proposed Notre Dame East “Decarie Style Trench” that is being planned for that street. And it was suggested that the Notre Dame, Bonaventure, and Turcot road projects be rethought as part of the same transportation plan for the city. The left hand needs to know what the right is doing and, on principle, these massive changes and their impacts should indeed be an integral part of an overall sustainable development plan for the city. Most importantly, the people who live closest to these projects need to be part of the decision making process.
Someone pointed out that the Turcot Interchange sees 280,000 fossil fuel burning vehicles per day. If you look at all highways on the island it works out that any given section will see an average of 7,700 vehicles per hour. At Turcot that hourly average jumps to about 11,000 per hour, thus making that area significantly more prone to noise and air pollution. It is very easy when you are driving through to not realize that people live there.
I would also urge people from the West Island, even the South Shore and Laval, to take a look at this project. A lot of this is all so that you can get downtown as quickly as possible. Out of sight, out of mind is an attitude that has put the planet in trouble. You need to start asking yourselves how you can be of help instead of how many seconds you can theoretically knock off your commute . Start asking your local politicians to lobby for more parking at train stations and take that train.
Health concerns were at the top of the agenda. People who live within 200 meters of a freeway are at considerably higher risk of death or respiratory illness than the general population. This spikes to 30% for children and adults over 60! Lowering the Turcot Interchange will expose the populations of Saint Henri and Cote Saint Paul to even higher levels of carbon emissions.
The idea of rebuilding Turcot on an embankment in order to save on maintenance costs is perhaps the show stopper. The aerial views of Turcot “after” presented by the Ministry of Transportation look all nice and green. But for those on ground level it will be like having a wall built around their neighborhoods, the views being cut off, the already difficult access between these neighborhoods being completely cut off. The embankment will put traffic on average about 6 meters above street level and that is unacceptable.
The number of people being expropriated is another story. MTQ likes to minimize the numbers but whether you call it units or buildings to make it sound insignificant, the fact is at least 300 people are going to have to move under the current plan. And three months rent and a moving allowance just doesn’t cut it anymore. This is not the 1950’s where people in poor soon-to-be-demolished neighborhoods should be grateful for such attention. I like to think we live in a society that treats it’s own people better than that.
Most of the people present seemed to agree that Turcot Rebuilt would work best either as a system of tunnels or remain elevated. The embankment seems to be the worst possible solution in sustainable and social terms.
It was also suggested that for each housing unit torn down during the project, the MTQ be responsible for creating a new unit in the neighborhood.
To further understand the environmental dynamics involved, someone suggested that the number of trees needed to absorb the pollution at Turcot would require a space 40 times the size of Angrignon Park! So much for the series of trees and shrubs in the MTQ plan.
The rising cost of fuel raised some ideas about even the need for such freeways in the future, as there seems to be a shift to trains, trams, and trolleys in so much urban planning debates these days. let alone that a good percentage of drivers won’t be able to afford it.
People want to be heard. They want to be dealt with fairly. It isn’t a lot when you think about it.
All in all an excellent evening indeed!
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