‘Wasting Away in Traffic’

Urban Planning Prof. Rails Against New Turcot

Pierre Gauthier, a Concordia University urban planning professor, says the MTQ’s new Turoct plan will do nothing to address Montreal’s traffic problem. Photo Alexandru Steau

Transport Québec’s $3 billion plan to expand the Turcot interchange will not solve Montreal’s traffic woes according to Pierre Gauthier, an urban planning professor at Concordia University.

On Nov. 9, Sam Hammad, Quebec’s Transportation Minister, unveiled the provincial government’s proposal to overhaul Montreal’s long decaying Turcot interchange, which links highway 20 and 15 to the Ville Marie Expressway.

The plan would expand the Turcot’s daily capacity for vehicles to over 300,000, add bus lanes in the interchange’s east-west axis and its construction would expropriate 106 housing units.

“The heart of the problem is that the new plans don’t address a reduction in the volume of traffic that would use the Turcot,” said Gauthier. “Congestion will still be a problem in the city because 20,000 new cars are added to Montreal’s new road network each year.”

In the last decade, Transport Quebec has invested approximately $4 billion into expanding and maintaining Montreal’s road infrastructure. An additional $3 billion will be invested into the Turcot reconstruction, which is set to begin in 2012 and last until 2018.

“All this investment into the road network hasn’t improved the city’s traffic situation,” said Gauthier. “The same approach won’t produce different results.”

Gauthier is among the new Turcot project’s many critics. On Nov. 2, Richard Bergeron, the city of Montreal’s head of urban planning, resigned after refusing to support the new proposal.

Bergeron called the project outdated by 50 years and claimed it was “90 per cent similar” to the one rejected by the city, Quebec’s Environmental Assessment Board and Montreal’s Board of Health in April.
Mario St-Pierre, a spokesperson for the Ministère des Transports du Québec, told The Link that the new proposal is a vast improvement over last spring’s.

“We have bus lanes, bike paths, acres of green space planned and we are leaving space open for a tramway to be built in the future,” said St-Pierre.

Speaking on behalf of The Citizens’ Committee of the Tanneries Village, which represents the hundreds of people that will be evicted because of the Turcot overhaul, Jody Negley strongly disagreed with the MTQ’s position.

“The changes are superficial and intentionally misleading,” said Negley. “The bus lanes are only a few miles long and will not prevent the bottlenecking the leads into them, [and] the tramway is not part of the proposal and is really just smoke and mirrors.”

Gauthier, who had presented Montrealers with an alternative to the Turcot in March, insisted that traffic would continue until public transit is properly incentivized.

“People won’t make that leap of faith it takes to get them out of their cars and into public transit until they see improvements to the system,” he said. “When the government decides to invest in a train to the West Island and increased bus services and reduces the capacity of our highway system, then people will stop wasting away in traffic.”

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 14, published November 16, 2010.