Since the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec announced their plan to build the Réseau électrique métropolitain in April of 2016, there have been serious concerns voiced by environmental activists and citizens alike about the impact the project would have on everything from trees, wetlands and noise to urban sprawl and pollution. REM’s approach to environmental concerns appears to be taking the issue seriously and is committed to taking the necessary actions required in order to minimize any negative impact the project and network might have.
REM’s approach to environmental concerns
To date the actions being taken by the REM include an environmental approach founded on best practices: avoid, minimize and compensate. In addition to the adjustments made to the route during the planning phase, doing whatever it takes to minimize consequences or taking concrete measures to compensate for the impact the work has on the environment.
GREENHOUSE GASES: They plan to compensate for greenhouse gases (GHGs) by planting 250,000 trees during the construction phase, working together with Jour de la Terre (the provincial branch of ‘Earth Day Canada’). Once the system is running it is expected to contribute to decreasing 680,000 tonnes of GHGs over twenty-five years of operation.
TREES CUT DURING CONSTRUCTION: Once the work is completed, for each tree that was cut down in the temporary construction zone areas, they will not only be replanted – but they will plant an additional 10%, actually increasing the total number of trees to 110%.
NOISE DURING CONSTRUCTION: REM teams are regularly monitoring noise levels to control the impact it is having in residential and institutional areas. Measures include: controlled work hours, quieter construction equipment, acoustic screens and a program for communicating with citizens.
ENVIRONMENTAL & URBAN SPRAWL MONITORING: In partnership with the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec and the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal, an agricultural land trust will be created to promote and encourage growth of the land bordering the Rive-Sud Terminal station – together with a future metropolitan agricultural park. The initiatives are not only aimed at protecting the area, but to also help limit urban sprawl.
IMPACT ON URBAN WILDLIFE: Although the REM network will mostly run through urban areas, the system may still have a negative impact on local wildlife. To address the potential harm, underpasses will be built beneath the railway tracks so that animals can cross from one side of the REM to the other.
IMPACT ON WETLANDS, SOIL AND WATER: To avoid negative impacts on wetlands (ponds, marshes and bogs) the REM is doing whatever is possible to protect them, such as altering the route and prohibiting the use of de-icing salt on the railway tracks in winter. As for the Technoparc Montréal area, mitigation measures are being implemented to protect the water and soil, such as safe stockpiling of contaminated soils, erosion protection and silt barriers.
It is clear there will be a significant enough impact during the REM construction phase and once it is running – but it appears as much as possible is being done to limit the negative impacts. One must also take into consideration that the REM network will be fully electrically powered and not be contributing to greenhouse gases. And the noise level will be minimal compared to that of trains or city buses. What are your concerns? Is the REM doing enough?