Turcot Plan Still Wrong!

There was a quiet little news item released last Friday by Radio Canada/CBC, the traditional day for burying a story, that has strangely not generated much of a reaction in the media. The Ministry Of Transport Quebec (MTQ) announced that they would proceed with their original Turcot Plan with two modifications – there would be less demolition of local housing than originally planned and the elevated section of the 15 South would remain elevated instead of being on ground level thus cutting a district in half and increasing health concerns in the area. While these are good things relative to the original plan, it is still profoundly disappointing news, though not entirely unexpected, for people in what might be called the Turcot “community”. Perhaps the most cynical and outdated aspect of the project is it’s intention of increasing capacity at Turcot from 280,000 vehicles a day to 304,000 vehicles a day while making no provisions for increasing public transportation. It seems the MTQ has remained determined to drive at 100kph into a 1950’s era type of brick wall. And it is Montreal that will suffer the consequences.

Since the Turcot Plan of the MTQ was announced in June of 2007 there has been a groundswell of groups and individuals that have criticized every aspect of the plan. Mobilisation Turcot
is a coalition of community groups and residents of the Sud Ouest Borough and people from all over Montreal that has worked very, very hard to raise public awareness of the Turcot issues, and get the MTQ to sit down with the community and rethink Turcot into a win win situation. The latter did not happen.

Montreal At The Crossroads: Superhighways, The Turcot, and The Environment is a book containing essays written by local professionals in areas such as Environmental Biology, Architecture, Engineering, Urban Planning, Health Sciences, Community Planning, and Environmental Assessment, among others. It is an impressive, contemporary book whose authors suggest that not only is what we do at Turcot going to define Montreal for the future, but could serve as an optimistic model for how other cities could deal with their old, outmoded infrastructure. The authors unanimously agree that the current Turcot plan of the MTQ cannot be part of an effective sustainable plan for the city, is deficient in encouraging the use of public transportation, and will be the source of even greater health risks in the nearby residential areas, and that will include the superhospital on the old Glen Yard site. (think about that one a bit – they will intentionally increase traffic right beside the building of a new hospital). Again, it appears the MTQ is just unwilling to pay attention.

The BAPE hearings in June of 2009 produced an astonishing number of briefs that negatively criticized the Turcot Plan. 85% were negative in fact. And there were presenters from seemingly unlikely locations as Lachine and Cote Saint Luc who presented briefs on how important the development of Turcot Yards to the whole urban region was in reality. Under the MTQ plan Turcot had become a land of missed opportunities, but the presentations at the BAPE encouraged bold and exciting new ideas. But the payoff at the BAPE came when all three leaders of Montreal’s major political parties presented briefs criticizing the MTQ plan! One might think that that would be enough to turn the tide, but, no, the MTQ rejected these requests, especially in regard to capacity, health, and public transportation.

One of the most dramatic changes under the Turcot plan will be to move Highway 20 over to the Falaise Saint Jacques. This will effectively kill the Falaise as both an ecoterritory on Montreal Island and as a crucial piece in a proposed greenbelt for the west side of the city. Highway 20 is not broken. Only the elevated portions of Turcot need to be fixed/replaced. The MTQ is proposing to spend millions and millions of dollars on something that does not need to be done. And in the process destroying all the potential of the Falaise while cutting off all north south possibilities through Turcot.

Turcot is a political struggle. The modifications presented Friday are concessions designed to show a spirit of openness and to silence the opposition. But the truth remains that it is a poorly conceived project that regards Montreal merely as a logistical problem to be solved using hopelessly outdated beliefs about how cities will function in the 21st century.

Montreal is unable to control it’s own destiny because politicians and bureaucrats in Quebec City do not have the courage, let alone an actual relevant vision, to let us grow according to our needs and our desires. The government is more worried about remaining popular with the rural ridings of the province who hold the keys to power. It is not paying attention to what is important to Montreal nor does it seem to want to hear about our silly visions of a great sustainable city. The Turcot plan is more like revenge rather than a gift.

Jean Charest is avoiding a public inquiry into corruption charges in the Quebec construction industry and corruption played a huge role in the 30 year debt incurred by the construction of the Olympic games. This is not a secret. The Turcot plan is almost nostalgic in it’s eerily familiar potential to begin an infrastructure rebuilding program that will sentence another generation of Montrealers into debt. We have to start doing things right at all levels if we are going to avoid an economic and social catastrophe. And we should have started it yesterday.

The Quebec Government is going to have to stand up and take full credit for the Turcot plan because Montrealers have signed off the whole deal. We need to hear Jean Charest tell us what a wonderful thing the Turcot plan is and how good it will be for us. And maybe we will believe him, but I don’t think so.

The fight has only now begun.


10 responses to “Turcot Plan Still Wrong!

  1. Yep, you’re right, we’ll never be happy because no matter how much people care about this area and propose initiatives that make this a better through-way and parkland for everyone (public transportation, cyclists, hikers and dare I even say cars too), the government will probably waste a good opportunity and simply create a car-only highway.

  2. Of course we are not happy, and to tell the truth, we are not well represented either ! If 85% of people who took time and effort to present well thought out papers to the BAPE were against Turcot and M. Charest is still going with it…well, that shows someone isn’t listening to the people.

    And I’m proud of not being not happy because it is activists like me and you who end up making a difference…

  3. As you noted, “The [Quebec] government is more worried about remaining popular with the rural ridings of the province who hold the keys to power. ” And therein lies the crux of the issue: the provincial government’s interests do not necessarily align with those of the City of Montreal.

    It is to be expected that the city and the province will have different priorities concerning transportation projects which have a regional and a local impact. But the fact that it is the province (and also the federal government) which controls the money, and hence the power to dictate the terms for such projects, which is problematic.

  4. And there is the Ministry of Transport who, being a permanent body, probably puts more ego into these things than what might be expected from governments. It is changing times for them too, of course, but they don’t seem to have a clue what’s going on outside of their road statistics. Charest likes to think of himself as “Mr Copenhagen” but he is part of the old school that is killing Montreal.

  5. The problem with numbers is, you can have them say whatever you want.85% of people who took time and effort to present well thought out papers to the BAPE were against Turcot.

    That’s because the only people that took time to think about this project are the people that were against it. most of the population in Montreal really don’t care about this project and want it done and over with so it doesn’t fall on our head.

    If people are for a project, they don’t go in the street waving banners and signs, if people don’t care for the project, well they won’t do nothing about it, so it’s only common sense that people against a project are the only one we hear.

    A handful of banner branding will stop a project that millions of users are for or don’t care, I believe that’s called being selfish.

  6. And please. stop calling la falaise st-jacques an Eco territory, it’s a 40 foot drop with a few scatter trees. It’s not like you go and walk your dog or play with your kids on the Falaise!

  7. 99% of all human beings would be slaves if a small minority never questioned authority. And most humans are terrified conformists when push comes to shove, completely identified with their captors, though democracy allows them to talk tough. It takes courage to go against the grain and history rarely takes note of those who were afraid of change.

    As I said above all 3 of Montreal’s major political parties came out against the Turcot plan at the BAPE. And that does include Gerald Tremblay who won the election 6 months later. Even the Parti Quebecois condemned the plan so it appears the only people who think this is a good plan belong to Charest’s Liberal Party for whom most trails in the corruption in the construction industry stories that keep popping up seem to lead.

    I cannot imagine a person of sound judgment endorsing the Turcot Plan when confronted with the facts and figures and the alternatives.

    I will stop calling the Falaise Saint Jacques an “ecoterritory” when the city of Montreal strips it of that designation.

    There is a trail that runs along the center of the Falaise that has been hiked by many people, myself included. There is also a small paved road from Saint Jacques down to Pullman that was to be part of a bicycle path system in the 1980’s until funding ran out. And I know of someone who has cross country skied it in winter. There are probably hundreds of species of plants that grow there as well.

    • @neath

      It isn’t that 99% of people don’t care about Turcot. Montrealers in general care quite a bit about Turcot as it is used by such a great number of them at least on occasion, and its condition is extremely worrying. They even like the MTQ plan.

      I’d call myself of sound judgement and I have no real issue with the plan. I would prefer increased capacity which isn’t being built into it anyway, as the congestion in the area is extremely bad. Turcot itself is usually not the choke point, it is especially the Montreal-West interchange with Rte 138 that kills it.

      The “375” plan is one that nobody of sound mind could endorse. It is an interchange that doesn’t permit interchange, and their “reduced cars” really is an extra 50 000 veh/d on “arterial network”. Well pick up a map of Montreal and try to see how someone on the 15 northbound will get downtown with this plan. There are no arterials here only local streets. The whole point of the freeway is to get traffic OFF the local streets.

      I can understand people who have gotten expropriation notices to be unhappy but otherwise… the bixi-riding Plateau hipsters should go back to playing with their ipods and leave the roads to people who are going to pay for them and use them.

      In other words, as you say Neath, why should the 300 000+ people who use Turcot on a daily basis, today (280k vehicles but obviously more persons), be enslaved into traffic chaos?

  8. I will add though that the construction scandal is worth some concern.

    For example, in Calgary, they just built 21 km of new freeway, with six interchanges (as opposed to three for Turcot and maybe 8 km?), with a private-public partnership for 650 million $.

    The 650 M$ is to be paid out over 30 years, and it includes all maintenance on the road as well, and the road has a 30 year warranty (i.e. in 2029 the road must be basically perfect).

    The Alberta government just signed a deal to construct an extra 25 km of freeway (admittedly about 10 km of the road exists today but as only 4 lanes instead of 6 and with traffic lights) with 9 interchanges, to be maintained over 33 years, for 769 M$.

    This is all part of the Calgary ring road BTW which will improve the quality of life in Calgary and the economic growth a lot.

    Now the MTQ’s intial estimate for Turcot was 1.5 BILLION and now at least 2 BILLION. TVA reported today 7 billion!! Corruption, where?! But could the PQ do better? No way…

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