Orange traffic signs are a familiar sight near Vendôme metro
Photos by Peter D. Smythe
Anyone who takes the 105 or 90 bus on a regular basis can tell you that, between the superhospital, the sewer overhaul and the nearby road construction, the stars have aligned to create perhaps one of the biggest traffic clusterfucks in the city.
Locals will be protesting outside Vendôme metro tomorrow against what they say are major obstacles to life in NDG.
This summer, the intersection at Décarie and de Maisonneuve in NDG got dug up and fenced off, forcing a massive traffic detour. The eastbound 105 bus, which normally accesses Vendôme metro via Décarie, now has to overshoot the metro by five blocks to end up at the same place.
“What’s causing that is the sewer work on de Maisonneuve, and that will end in a few months, but we feel that what that does, is that it approximates what it’ll be like in the future,” says Peter McQueen, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce/Côte-des-Neiges city councillor for Projet Montreal.
The future he’s referring to is one in which the Addington highway exit will be opened but Upper Lachine will be closed to traffic and may end up serving as an ambulance route. The plan severs the eastbound 90 bus route from Vendôme, cutting off access for people living in the St-Raymond neighbourhood of NDG — that is, a stretch of lower NDG that lies below the train tracks.
The Addington exit will allow cars traveling on the Ville-Marie Expressway to get out in lower NDG — right at the intersection of Décarie and de Maisonneuve.
Jessie Evans lives in St-Raymond on Upper Lachine at Girouard, but she works at Dawson College, so the 90 bus route is her connection to the world outside NDG. She also has a four-year-old son and a serious allergy to the cold, so walking to Vendôme along the highway, although not far on a map, can be torturous in some conditions.
“Even right now, for pedestrians coming from Upper Lachine where it merges on de Maisonneuve at Décarie, it’s pretty precarious as it is,” she says.
St-Raymond is one of NDG’s poorer neighbourhoods, and the fact that the city is planning to cut off vehicular access to it, while making foot access more dangerous, smells of Montreal modus operandi. Though she hasn’t got hard data to back it up, Evans feels “there’s been a lot of deliberate avoidance of inconveniencing the Westmount area in terms of access to the hospital, but over here, they’re like, ‘Let’s just plow through.’”
Nightmare far from over
McQueen also points to the impending renovation and reopening of the Empress Theatre as a potential cause (or victim) of traffic snarls.
But perhaps more important is that the McGill University Health Centre bought two big office buildings flanking Vendôme metro for its Glen campus. McQueen says it’s looking at snapping up other surrounding lots.
For all the superhospital-related work slated for the neighbourhood, plans for access to it are still murky.
The relatively small Vendôme metro station currently only has one major entrance, which is not wheelchair-accessible and is across the train tracks from the superhospital.
“They have to build a second entrance to the metro,” McQueen says. “You can’t close the only exit to make ramps.”
But McQueen says who’s footing the bill still needs to be worked out, considering the pressure on the provincial government and construction group SNC-Lavalin to remain on budget with the superhospital’s Glen campus.
According to Philippe Sabourin of the city’s communications department, the bike path and the public property surrounding the superhospital — particularly the area around de Maisonneuve and Décarie — are slated for a 2013–14 overhaul. However, Sabourin says, no decisions have been made on how to correct the existing bike path.
Recent calls for a bike bridge to keep cyclists out of harm’s way is a good first step, both Evans and McQueen say, but it doesn’t solve the problem for people like Evans, who rely on the old BMW to get around — that is, bus, metro and walk.
“I like being here, but I have to seriously consider — if work is going to be a huge ordeal to get to, or our quality of life is not being considered, I don’t know how long I’m going to want to stick around,” Evans says. ■
The protest at Vendôme metro gets going on Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 5:30 p.m.