Turcot Greenbelt Consultations were they a Farce?
Turcot Greenbelt – Environmentalists worry that recent consultations with the Quebec Ministry of Transport (MTQ) on the Turcot highway reconstruction project were a public relations scam, letting the MTQ off the hook without fulfilling any of its environmental promises. The first promise involves creating a new greenspace and the second involves building a bicycle bridge over the rebuilt Highway 20.
Consultations were held October 18 with environmental and community organizations to discuss the on the “Bande Vert,” a new linear green belt promised at the bottom of the falaise St. Jacques (Escarpment) between NDG and the new Highway 20. This greenbelt, which will average 30 metres in width over almost 4km, is also supposed to incorporate a pedestrian and bike path.
“We were shown beautiful plans on Oct. 18,” said Lisa Mintz of Sauvons la Falaise. “But we were not allowed to take any photos. If this such great project, why is it secret? That is a warning sign; do they have the money to do this?”
Mintz describes the plans for linear greenbelt as including the bike path, grassy areas and forest, a stream, a small lake, trails and lookouts. “Almost too good to be true,” as she put it.
“The MTQ previously made promises about the Dalle-Parc bicycle and pedestrian bridge in 2010, but now claim that they have no money for it. At an estimated $40 million, the bridge represents only about one percent of the $3.8 billion Turcot budget. Why does the MTQ always find money for motorists, but not for cyclists and pedestrians?”
She also points to how the MTQ “temporarily” closed the Mercier Bridge bike path in 2009 with a promised re-opening in 2011. Today there is still no bike path on the MTQ’s portion of that bridge nor any timetable given for when it might be completed. The southern half of Mercier Bridge is administered by the federal government and there is a bike path there; unfortunately it stops half-way across the river…
“We have been asking for these consultations for two years, but what they showed us is unbelievable; I doubt it will ever become a real project. The MTQ is just trying to appease us. They ask us to trust them to integrate the new greenbelt with rest of project, but it is not connected to anything else. I am extremely skeptical; disgusted actually.”
Mounds of dirt some 20 metres high remain today where the bike path is supposed to pass. Mintz suggests that the KPH consortium working on the Turcot reconstruction project does not want to pay to move these mounds.
In 2010, former Transport minister Sam Hamad promised many “green measures” in the Turcot project, presumably in an effort to “sell” an unpopular project to the general public. The project is surrounded by less affluent neighbourhoods like St. Henri, St. Pierre, and St. Raymond where many residents do not own cars.
Felix Gravel of CRE Montréal says, “It is very important to ensure that the last bit of green infrastructure in the Turcot project, is actually built and is constructed to be a useful part of the project. Ideally, this greenbelt would connect Westmount to St. Pierre with the Dalle-Parc bridge at the centre.”
By: John Symon – mtltimes.ca