Just between us

Beaconsfield’s last stand on a Highway 20 sound wall is sad and shameful

Earlier this month, Beaconsfield council effectively threw in the towel on its effort to build a sound barrier along the south side of Highway 20 by presenting a bylaw that gives residents whose properties abut the expressway the right to build their own noise barriers in their yards.

After years of unsuccessfully attempting to convince the provincial government to pay for a wall and then failing to bite the bullet and accepting the province’s offer to pay half the tab for the wall, council is throwing up its hands. The residents are on their own. If they want a sound wall, they can build their own. What a sad, sad precedent this sets.

First, let’s get one thing straight. All this talk about the residents who live by the highway knew what they were getting into when they bought their homes, is unfair. These homes were all built when Highway 20 was an urban boulevard that was controlled by traffic lights. The volume of traffic back then was a fraction of what it is today. The highway has also been rebuilt to eliminate the traffic lights, which has meant that the road bed has been raised. This, too, has significantly increased the amount of noise emanating from the expressway. If this highway were built in that area today, it would require a sound wall. The noise exceeds the established maximums.

So let’s move on to the real debate.

True, only a few people would benefit from the installation of a sound wall. But the same can be said about just about anything a municipal government does. Only a few people use the library. Only certain taxpayers use the arena. Only certain people use public transit. But we do not simply ask the users to pay. We chose to live in a community. And everyone pays for all the standard of living that community offers.

In this case, the municipal council should have shown some real leadership and said a sound wall is needed, and then went about finding a real solution. That would have been the right thing.

The alternative is to say that Beaconsfield not only lacks the leadership but the willingness to get creative and do the right thing. It’s 2013. This is Beaconsfield. And a build-it-yourself-because-we-have-given-up-the-fight bylaw is as good as it gets? That is sad. It’s uninspired and shameful.

When situations change and people need help, you step forward and pitch in.

If I’m wrong, let me know.

Brenda O’Farrell

17 comments

  1. By Peter McKinney

    I live in Beaconsfield and the argument that the library or arena benefit a few, just like the wall is mis-direction. The arena and library are available to all, like sewers and water service. But a sound barrier is available to just the folks who want it. So as a taxpayer, I am not interested in subsidizing the construction and have told my counclllor and mayor the same. This article also omitted mentioining that the city did offer a financing option based on the decibel impact and location of the person’s home. Those folks rejected it. For our first house in St Hubert, we had to work the city for the development of our area and incur financing for our new area. (Didn’t help I guess, St-Hubert went bankrupt anyway). It is a busier, more complex world; just as the folks who complain about the airport have come to learn.

  2. By Teresa Havill

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I think that there would have been a substantial cost to the taxpayers for this wall, something that not all people (especially those who are retired) could have easily afforded. I think that was the reason that this project “failed”.

  3. By Rod Stutt

    Sure, this time it’s a sound wall but next time it could be Angell Woods or the waterfront. A do-it yourself attitude for public works is a bad precedent. The least the city could do is take the provincial money and transfer it to the home owners along with loans to cover the other 50%.

  4. By Derrick Pounds

    Brenda, you are absolutely right on all counts.
    The proposed D.I.Y Sound Wall by-law would not solve the noise problem and it does set a sad precedent in Beaconsfield.
    So, I am circulating your blog to everyone concerned including our councillors.
    Thank you

  5. By WILLIAM

    good article Brenda! BUT I disagree ! first off I don’t think you can say that not everyone will use the sound wall and compare it to libraries, arena and DEFINATLY not public transportation! quote “In 2010, the STM provided over 1.3 million trips per day and has nearly 1600 busses running on 192 bus routes, which includes about 8500 stops. “unquote

    NOW how could you POSSSIBBLLLYYYYY justify wasting all our hard earn tax dollars on a sound wall then compare it to the stm…..and not to be mean but if these people don’t like it then……..THE SHOULD NOT HAVE MOVED NEXT TO A HIGHWAY :)

    Have a great day and better weekend!

  6. By Wilfrid Pidduck

    C’mon Beaconsfiled Council,

    Don’t think of it as a sound barrier. Think or it as a blast shield the next time that a train-load of crude oil flips over in your town. It’ll probably save a few lives. That has to be worth something!

    W.

  7. “First, let’s get one thing straight. All this talk about the residents who live by the highway knew what they were getting into when they bought their homes, is unfair. These homes were all built when Highway 20 was an urban boulevard that was controlled by traffic lights.”

    Unfair? 10 years ago, I paid 50k more for a kirkland house on a quiet street. Exact same model near a boulevard or close to highway were about 50k less. I found it “fair” to pay more. Oh, and 100% guaranteed that that NONE of adjacent or close streets to my house will EVER be developed into highways. One would have been extremely naive to think Aut20 would stay an urban boulevard just as someone whose is currently looking to buy a home near the 20 in Vaudreuil-Dorion.

  8. By Jan Husar

    Brenda, you are only right that:

    “The highway has also been rebuilt to eliminate the traffic lights, which has meant that the road bed has been raised. This, too, has significantly increased the amount of noise emanating from the expressway. If this highway were built in that area today, it would require a sound wall”
    So,
    The Quebec government should pay for it. Beaconsfield is a small municipality without industrial park and with about 30 mil. budget. How it can pay 50% (25 mil.)?

  9. By hthomas

    Do you really think bankrupt Quebec should be giving 20-30 million dollars to build a sound wall for residents with one of the highest incomes in the province?? I mean really this is far from a number one priority..most people in Beaconsfield have the means to pay for some sort of sound barrier without asking all Quebecers to pay for it. I think anyone buying a house near highway 20 over the past 20-30 years should have figured out that there would be road and train noise..its not rocket science that the road would eventually become a highway.

    • By Jan Husar

      Let me ask you:
      1. Who did modification to 2-20 in order to to accommodate more traffic?
      2. Who is using 2-20?
      I am positive that the majority are not from Beaconsfield. So, who is responsible for 2-20? Not the Quebec government?

  10. By Frederick

    Sorry, very sorry, but any idiot who buys a home near a train track or a highway and doesn’t realize that their area is going to be noisy and that traffic will increase over time is a moron.

  11. By helleborine

    I live near the train tracks and you don’t hear me complaining. I don’t hear the trains anymore. I tune them out automatically.

  12. By Daniel Adams

    Hi Brenda,
    We have been looking for a home in Beaconsfield because we feel it has a great sense of community, good schools, and a wonderful place to bring up a little boy. What we have found is that the noise from highway 20 is not only intolerable near the 20 [ where it is certainly terrible] ,but this noise also permeates right down until you past Church. St. We have looked at a home at the corner of Church St. and York and the backyard was still filled with the low hum of the highway. We also looked at a homes along Church St. and up a little closer to the highway on Watford St and on Watford St. the noise was perceptibly worse. All these houses along this parallel to the highway and closer we would not purchase simply because of the noise. Of course,it is not nearly as bad as those homes that are right near the highway where you cannot talk on your cell phone in your own yard, but it is there and more noticeable at night. I suggest to anyone to go to the streets that I have mentioned and just get out and stop for awhile and just listen. It is such a shame that such a pastoral community should be spoiled in anyway by illegal noise . Ultimately ,this noise affects not only the homes and the sense of community of many people ,but not just those people who live right next to the highway. To ask only those who live right next to the highway to pay for the sound wall is not the way democracies are properly run. It is an abrogation of responsibility by both citizens and elected officials. I pay into and believe medicare should exist even though I am not sick for now because others are. I indirectly pay for a new Metro station even though I have to use my car to go to work. Noise pollution is not only a health problem ,but it is also financial problem . I am sure if a sound barrier had been erected I would have made an offer to purchase any one of the 3 nice homes . As I stated earlier the noise level is affecting many more Beaconsfield residents than those who directly live near the highway and when the residents start to realize that their homes are not selling as easily as they should maybe they will get a new sense of community and realize in a democracy we all contribute so that all will benefit and few will suffer.

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