Opposition to the Turcot reconstruction project heated up last week, as the Nov. 11 deadline for Quebec’s environment Minister to make her recommendations on the project available to the public inched closer.
Fuelling the fire was a public discussion, a rally, and a release from the province’s health Minister.
O Ciel, a self-described artistic embassy, was packed last Wednesday evening as people gathered in the cozy locale on St. Jacques St. to discuss options for the future of the Turcot.
Should the minister go ahead with the plan, Quebecers can still hope the project is overturned when Canada goes to the Copenhagen Climate Conference next month, said Jason Prince, research coordinator at the McGill School of Urban Planning and host for the evening.
“We have one month to really influence this project,” said Prince, with a paper cup of whiskey and cider in hand. “So let’s write some letters to Jean Charest!”
Part of Transport Quebec’s $1.5 billion reconstruction plan for the Turcot involves rebuilding a section of the interchange and moving it south explained Pierre Brisset, a local architect and author of Montreal at the Crossroads: Super Highways, the Turcot and the Environment.
“They’d have to move it to the south in order to keep the old one usable while they’re building the new one.” he said.
To move the new highway south, however, would mean kicking out about 400 people who live in Montreal’s southwest neighbourhood, the Village des Tanneries.
“Why do the rights of commuters to come in and out of the city in their private cars outweigh the rights of 166 families living in good quality housing and paying very reasonable rent?” Prince asked.
A hearing on that matter was held in June, when 86 per cent of the briefs submitted to the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environment opposed the development of the new Turcot, Prince said.
Sophie ThiÃ©baut, elected Projet MontrÃ©al borough councillor for Saint-Henri&-La Petite-Bourgogne&-Pointe-Saint-Charles district, said the issue goes beyond the expropriation of the area’s residents.
“An increase in cars means and increase in greenhouse gases,” she said. “Also, this new Turcot will be located on the ground, which will create physical barriers between the neighbourhoods and remove green spaces.”
Much to pleasure of all those gathered on Wednesday, there are indications that the National Assembly’s point of view on the reconstruction plan might be changing. In a preliminary committee last week, Minister of Health Yves Bolduc proposed the province stop green-lighting road construction projects that could potentially increase circulation in urban areas. Such an action, he said, would help curb the province’s greenhouse gas emissions.
As Montrealers wait to hear Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, and Parks Line Beauchamp’s recommendations, the debates continue.