Special by Bonnie Wurst
It has been almost two and a half years since it was announced at a council meeting in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue that the overpasses on Highway 40, linking the expressway with Ste. Marie Rd. and Anciens Combattants Blvd. would be closed for a ‘safety evaluation’. At the end of March 2011, Exit 41 off of the highway was closed, the overpasses blocked off with concrete and getting to Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue became a challenge of poorly marked detours and confusion.
At the time, the city’s engineer Daniel Doran announced a July 2009 study on the overpass by engineering firm Genivar, determined there were areas of the overpasses ‘in a critical state and almost every element of the overpasses were in need of repair. It recommended the overpasses should be closed as a preventative measure’.
It has caused havoc and headaches not only to the residents of Ste-Anne’s but to those in Senneville, Île Perrot, Pincourt, Vaudreuil-Dorion and also for Montrealers who use it to access Highway 20 from Highway 40. People have set out from Montreal with the intention of enjoying a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk, watching the boats navigate the canal, checking out a few boutiques and then having supper on a terrace at one of the many great restaurants – but instead found themselves following a very long detour, not very well indicated and then missing the exit they would have needed to take. One couple I know ended up opting for the Pointe-Claire Village after missing the exit.
Many are now claiming there was no reason to close it for any safety reasons – and in fact all it needed was some repair work that could have been spread out over a number of years. Claims are also being made there was a game being played by Mayor Francis Deroo with Ministère des Transports Quebec (MTQ). They believe his plan was to close the overpass to put pressure on Transport Quebec, rolling the dice on a game about who would finance the repairs – and then a standoff began between the town and the MTQ over who would pay for the repairs.
Bad gamble if this was the plan – the dice were clearly loaded.
Bill Tierney, the former Mayor of Ste. Anne De Bellevue and now a columnist for the West Island Gazette stated last May, “They made a mistake. They thought they could out face the ministry… they didn’t realize you have to collaborate with those people. Once you close it, you can’t open it again (without fixing it)… the Genivar report didn’t say the thing was dangerous. It was just said there was some short term things to do and then you can do some medium-term things, which would keep the bridge going for another five, 10, 15 or 20 years.”
“Basically, they blew it. They made a bad decision. They shut the bridge without working with the Ministry of Transport. They thought the ministry would come cruising in to pick up the tab and get the thing rolling,” he said. “Ste-Anne is responsible for the overpass and has spent the past two years attempting to negotiate with Transport Quebec to absorb the cost of replacing it, with the mayor stating it is a regional artery and beyond the small municipality’s means.”
Regardless of who will have fingers pointed at them and who will be to blame for the long delay, residents of Ste-Anne-De-Bellevue, workers, visitors and users of the ramp are at their wits end. There was a moment of hope in late 2012 when many mistook road crews working on preparatory work for a reconstruction project on Highway 40, as the beginning of the rebuilding of the overpasses. Bottom line – since March 2011 nothing has been done and people are demanding action.
There has been talk of how the overpasses should be rebuilt. A roundabout ‘solution’ (with a preliminary price tag of $4.2 million) had been selected in Transport Québec‘s ‘solution study process’ in the Spring of 2011. In early 2012 they suggested Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue simply tear down the two structures and replace them with ground level intersections, citing it as the least expensive way to maintain.
In the spring of 2013 Mayor Francis Deroo said this was the previous government’s plan and that the new government is more in favour of a T-shaped interchange. In April, he then said they were ‘eyeing a roundabout as well as a T interchange as solutions’.
I’m getting dizzy just writing this.
From what I understand, is along with no concrete being poured to date – nothing ‘concrete’ has been decided. At this point all anyone wants to see, especially the residents and merchants of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, is the exit open again with access to this fair town – which their tax dollars pay for.
Now an end to the charade might be in sight, but nobody is holding their breath.
Just a few weeks ago Mayor Francis Deroo announced that Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue is expecting a ‘new protocol agreement’ from Transport Quebec to arrive shortly and a final version is expected to be presented to council at a meeting. But many have lost faith in the words coming from their municipal leader.
I called the municipal office of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue on Thursday August 29th to inquire if the ‘new protocol agreement’ had arrived and was told that it had not. I asked when they might be expecting any news and was simply told that they ‘have no idea’.
In the meantime people are calling the current situation ‘absolutely ludicrous’, drivers are incurring extra gas costs, visitors are being daunted by the detours, petitions have been signed, official letters of complaint have been sent to the MTQ. Attempts to pressure elected officials on all levels have not gone by unnoticed, but have gone by unanswered to date.
In all due respect to Mayor Francis Deroo, the MTQ and all those involved in this process, might I suggest a very concrete decision be made soon. Very soon. The people who elected you and put you in power, trusting you will have their best interests at heart – are not going to take it anymore. At least for not much longer.
Perhaps by the time you have read this article some good news has been announced. I for one hope so.
Please let us know how you feel about the whole Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue overpass situation. What has your experience been with it? Do you believe anything will ever actually be built? What other information can you offer that you think our readers should be informed of?
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Bonnie Wurst is a freelance journalist and weekly columnist for the West End Times, a ghost writer (not the scary kind) and humorist. Her book “Damaged Goods Re-Stitched” can be found on Amazon.com. Her library of whimsical satire (short stories, rants and bulletins) can be found on her blog at http://bonniewurst.wordpress.com. Bonnie is available for speaking engagements and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org