TMR residents want town officials to fight REM's 'traffic-hindering' construction plans

The Cornwall Avenue bridge over the train tracks will be demolished as will a bridge spanning the tracks at Jean Talon Street — two busy east-west routes that are congested with much more than TMR traffic.

Hundreds sign petition demanding better planning, injunction against project which starts in November

Some residents fear the Town of Mount Royal is going to be a traffic hot spot soon. They are demanding the REM construction projects be better planned. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

Montreal residents fear driving through the Town of Mount Royal is about to get a whole lot slower thanks to at least two more years of light-rail construction that will demolish key overpasses in the area.

Now those residents are demanding that more be done to dampen the impact this project will have on everyone who drives through, visits or does business in the area.

The Cornwall Avenue bridge over the train tracks will be demolished as will a bridge spanning the tracks at Jean Talon Street — two busy east-west routes that are regularly congested without the construction. Dunkirk Road, which runs a north-south route along the tracks, will also be closed.

"From this fall until the new railway station opens in 2022, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists will be affected,"TMR Mayor Philippe Roy said in a statement last September. 

"Fortunately, this major construction is only temporary; it is important to keep this in mind."

The Laird Boulevard Bridge, which runs parallel to Cornwall, will be made bidirectional during that time.

The town says it doesn't have decision-making power over the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) and can't do much about the situation other than warn residents to plan their travels accordingly.

Long-time resident Peter Malouf said that's not good enough. 

"It's as if we are becoming hostages to a very poorly considered plan for circulation and alternatives have not been considered," he said in an interview. 

It's not just residents who will be stuck in traffic, said Malouf. Emergency services will as well. Merchants will also lose customers, he said, as parking will be lost and customers won't be able to easily access the commercial area.

"There are a lot of people who are going to pay a price for this," he said.

Malouf launched a petition earlier this week that has already garnered nearly 500 signatures from residents who want the project to be better planned.

Montreal's on-island suburb has long had traffic going over the tracks one way on Cornwall Avenue and the other on Laird Boulevard. All traffic will soon be funnelled onto Laird. (Google Earth)

If CDPQ Infra, the conglomerate building the REM, isn't willing to do more to mitigate traffic problems, the petition calls on TMR to file an injunction.

Otherwise, Malouf said, "It's going to be a real problem."

Residents offer solutions

Malouf has thoroughly researched the project, spoken with town officials and provided the administration with a series of suggestions in his petition.

"They're not complicated suggestions," he said. "If properly planned, this could have been done very well."

For starters, setting up seemingly unused work trailers and other equipment in busy areas for months at a time is a traffic-hindering waste of public space, he said. He would like to see staggered bridge closings, a temporary overpass and the south side of Côte-de-Liesse Road made bidirectional.

TMR officials could not be reached for comment Saturday. In the mayor's September statement, he said a bus terminal will be relocated and a shuttle service will be made available starting in January 2020.

"The work this fall and over the next two years is the sole responsibility of the provincial government and its representatives," Roy said in the statement.

"In the meantime, the town will do its best to ease this process."

REM says bridge work is needed no matter what

Emmanuelle Rouillard-Moreau, a REM spokesperson, said the traffic management plan is still in discussion between the City of Montreal, Town of Mount Royal and REM consortium. 

"There is important work to be done as we need to rebuild those two bridges, but we will do our utmost to minimize the impact of the work for residents," she said.

Both the Cornwall bridge and the Jean-Talon bridge will be refurbished and that work will begin in January when the Mount Royal Tunnel closes, she said.

The bridge renovations aren't needed for the REM project alone —the bridges have reached the end of their useful life, Rouillard-Moreau said.