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Valérie Plante defends plan to block traffic on Mount Royal: 'We have a treasure, and we need to protect it'

In an interview with Debra Arbec, Mayor Valérie Plante urged Montrealers to give a chance to her administration's controversial pilot project to limit motorized vehicle access to Camillien-Houde Way.

Blocking through traffic necessary to protect future of mountain, Montreal mayor says

Mayor Valérie Plante is urging Montrealers to give her plan to block through traffic on Mount Royal a chance. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Valérie Plante is urging Montrealers to give her controversial plan to block through traffic on Mount Royal a chance.

In an interview Wednesday, Montreal's mayor told CBC's Debra Arbec the pilot project set for this spring is long overdue.

"I have the political will to do what no other mayor was able to do, which is: we have a mountain, we have a treasure, and we need to protect it. We need to make it safe, and we need to limit the go-through traffic," she said.

She acknowledged it's a challenge to get drivers to change their habits.

"If you are used to, for years and years, going through the mountain at morning and night to go from one side to the other and escape some of the traffic, I understand this decision is a shock."

Full details of the pilot project haven't yet been released. However, under the change, Camillien-Houde Way would be blocked to through traffic between the Maison Smith and Beaver Lake parking lots.

The decision came after an 18-year-old cyclist, Clément Ouimet, died when he collided with an SUV that pulled a U-turn in front of his bicycle on Camillien-Houde last year. 

Mayor Valérie Plante told host Debra Arbec she is standing by her plan to block through traffic on Mount Royal. 7:22

The pilot project has faced stiff criticism, with opponents arguing it will reduce access to the mountain and create a barrier between the city's east and west ends.

A petition against the idea had amassed more than 18,000 signatures by midday Wednesday. Another in favour of the project has just over 4,000.

Montrealers not consulted, group says

Les Amis de la Montagne, a non-profit group dedicated to the "conservation and preservation of Montréal's crown jewel," complained residents weren't adequately consulted, and details remain unclear.

"Are Montrealers today willing to consider what it might mean to end car transit over the mountain? Perhaps," Hélène Panaïoti, a spokesperson for the group, told Daybreak.

"But this would require the city to present to us a detailed proposal, which they haven't done, and to lay out a really compelling case for how this plan would serve the mountain and serve its users." 

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)

Panaïoti's group has proposed a series of traffic-calming measures for the road, making it more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists, rather than blocking traffic outright.

Plan based on decade-old report

In defence of the pilot project, the Plante administration has repeatedly cited a 2008 city report that recommending blocking cars from driving across the mountain.

That same year, Montreal's office of public consultations asked residents for their input on the future of the mountain. A total of 2,785 people filled out a questionnaire, with 71.5 per cent agreeing through traffic should be stopped.

On Wednesday, Plante said those findings are proof enough something needs to be done, saying the mountain has only gotten busier.

"I feel really comfortable saying what they identified as a huge problem in 2008 is even worse now," she said, pointing out that Camillien-Houde Way was never intended to serve as a thoroughfare for commuters.

For his part, Luc Doray, who was head of the public consultations office in 2008 and still runs it today, said it's impossible to say.

"We have a picture of 10 years ago. Is that picture still the same? I do not know really there's no way to know that until a poll or something else," he said.

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