Frustration grows over plan to block cars from crossing Mount Royal

More and more Montrealers say banning cars from driving over Mount Royal on Camillien-Houde Way, a pilot project announced by Luc Ferrandez earlier this month, will reduce access to the mountain and create a barrier between the city's east and west ends.

Newspaper opinion pieces, petition signed by 8,000 call for more consultation on pilot project

Motorists used to winding through Camillien-Houde Way will have to walk or take public transit to enjoy the views the thoroughfare offers. A part of the road will be closed to cars as of this spring. (Radio-Canada)

Luc Ferrandez says he announced the decision to close part of the road that winds through Mount Royal to vehicle traffic earlier this month because he didn't believe it would create fuss. 

"Not at all," he said on Radio-Canada's morning radio show Gravel le matin Monday. "It was just so obvious the reasons why we were going to do it."

Ferrrandez, the mayor of the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough and executive committee member in charge of parks, admitted he told reporters about the pilot project to close Camillien-Houde Way to cars by the spring ahead of a planned announcement by the city.

That announcement is still coming, he said, and will reveal more details about the project.

But more and more Montrealers say blocking cars from crossing Mount Royal will reduce access to the mountain and create a barrier between the city's east and west ends.

The mounting opposition has materialized in the form of newspaper opinion pieces over the weekend, as well as an online petition so far signed more than 8,000 times. 

The petition says better solutions include reducing speed on the thoroughfare to the point where it would discourage motorists looking for a shortcut and better separating lanes for cars, and for bikes or pedestrians.

La Presse columnist Marie-Claude Lortie said the plan creates yet another dead end and would mean losing a part of the city's DNA. In the Montreal Gazette, writer Josh Freed called it a "mini Berlin Wall."

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante wrote an essay of her own in defence of the plan's for La Presse, saying the project won't limit access to the mountain.
Camillien-Houde Way connects the Plateau-Mont-Royal and Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhoods. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Published Sunday, Plante said in the op-ed that cutting off access to cars between Maison Smith and the parking lot near Beaver Lake will "re-balance the space and bring Camillien-Houde Way into a renewed and shared mobility."

She argued the road is an outdated parkway, created as a kind of nature drive-through in the mid-19th century. Ferrandez says it's become a freeway, with 10,000 cars circulating on it every day.

'Why would I back down?'

Many of those opposed to the project say the road offers a reprieve from Montreal's construction and traffic-laden streets.

The petition says the 800 metres lost to cars in the project will make it difficult to access some of the mountain's key features for those who don't live in its immediate vicinity.

Ferrandez, however, has been staunch in his decision to go through with the project.

"Why would I back down?" he said. 
Executive committee member in charge of large parks, Luc Ferrandez, announced today that traffic over Mount Royal will no longer be an option for Montreal motorists. (Radio-Canada)

He admitted, though, that the off-the-cuff announcement at the beginning of February lacked details, which were left out because he thought most people were aware that the plan has been contemplated before. 

Ferrandez announced the decision months after 18-year-old cyclist Clément Ouimet died while travelling on Camillie-Houde when an SUV travelling ahead of him suddenly made an illegal U-turn last October. 

But he says it was brewing well before, with studies and surveys dating back 10 years indicating support for blocking cars from crossing the mountain.

More details coming

"I understand people's frustration," said Sue Montgomery, the mayor for Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. Camillien-Houde Way connects the Plateau-Mont-Royal and Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhoods.

"When I heard [the announcement], I was a bit taken by surprise, too, because Luc Ferrandez being Luc Ferrandez came out with it."

Montgomery said she relayed residents' concerns to Ferrandez in a meeting with him last Friday. 

Both Montgomery and Ferrandez say the upcoming official announcement will reveal details about the plan they believe will appease people's worries.

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