In December 2011, a former Grid blogger, Yosef Robinson, wrote a piece about the reconstruction of the Turcot Interchange, a major highway junction in Montreal, Canada. The original proposal came about as the aging infrastructure was beginning to crumble. The project faced fierce opposition, as it planned to widen the interchange (going against everything we know about dealing with congestion), and also proposed to take the interchange off of its pillars and down to street-level. This would result in the expropriation of a large number of homes in the St-Henri neighbourhood and building a giant wall, 5 stories high in some places, throughout St-Henri.
Although most of the city professionals and community groups alike opposed the project, it has changed very little in recent iterations. When the provincial government changed hands last fall, there were hopes that the new government who had opposed the original proposal would propose something different. It did not.
Changes made to original plan, MTQ 2009
Shannon Franssen, Coordinator at Solidarité St-Henri, has been an active force in the campaign against the project proposed by the Quebec Ministry of Transport. She stresses the missed opportunity this project represents. The government could boost public transit during the construction phase and therefore reduce both the number of cars on the road and the capacity on a newer, simpler interchange. Instead, the first iteration of the project did not include public transit additions, and the most recent version includes only a discontinued network of reserved bus lanes.
Franssen argues that the new interchange will actually be worse for the environment and neighbouring communities than the existing 1950s structure, as it will be brought down to embankments and into the St-Henri borough, and will be widened to increase capacity from 280,000 in 2011 to over 300,000 cars per day. Further, this 300,000 – a proposed reduction by the new government from the original 400,000 – is dubious, argues Franssen, as it relies on the adoption of carpooling, which she emphasizes means more than drawing carpooling lanes onto the road.
Turcot project, MTQ 2009
With such fierce opposition to this project and its archaic design, one has to wonder who benefits from this project and why there has not been a greater push to make this project more sustainable, especially considering the ongoing scandals surrounding the engineering firms being considered for the contract. Do similar controversial projects exist in your city?
Credits: Data and images linked to sources.