It has been long promised, never built and, once again appears to be on hold.
True to form, the latest plan to build an urban boulevard that would connect Gouin Blvd. with Highway 40 west of St. Charles Blvd., is proving to be a political football.
On Monday, the north-south urban boulevard had the Mayor of Pierrefonds-Roxboro and the Liberal MNA for the West Island riding of Nelligan accusing the Parti Québécois government of playing party politics.
Their accusations followed Friday’s revelations by Quebec’s Transport Minister Sylvain Gaudreault that the province does not intend to contribute $41 million to the $60-million north-south boulevard promised last summer by Pierre Moreau, the then Liberal transport minister.
“This is a political manoeuvre of the worst kind, partisanship,” said MNA Yolande James. “I can’t find the words to describe how angry I am.”
“They are playing politics instead of concentrating on (the needs of) taxpaying citizens,” said Mayor Monique Worth.
On Friday, Gaudreault told reporters in Quebec City that the urban boulevard was “the best example” of Liberal promises made without the required funds during the run-up to the Sept. 4 provincial election.
On Monday, James refuted that claim, noting the money was inscribed in Transport Quebec’s “politique cadre” or infrastructure investment program.
Worth charged the funds are probably being “redirected” to other priorities of the PQ provincial government: “It is their decision to put it all on hold.”
Last summer’s provincial government commitment to the project gave the city of Montreal, the go-ahead it needed to do preliminary studies on the environmental impact of the urban boulevard, said James.
They both said that if the plan does not go forward now, years of municipal and provincial government planning and negotiations will be wasted — and West Islanders will once again be left out to dry.
It can now take up to 45 minutes to travel by car from Gouin Blvd. to the St. Charles Blvd. entrance onto Highway 40 during the morning rush hour. And Kirkland citizens are equally frustrated with the increasing traffic on their streets as motorists try to bypass the bottleneck on St. Charles.
Only two weeks ago, Worth said, she toured the provincial government right-of-way where the new boulevard would be built with Réal Ménard, the city of Montreal’s executive committee member responsible for transportation.
Last month, the 2.8-kilometre roadway was listed by the city of Montreal as one of its six Montreal Island transport priorities.
If plans are shelved, Worth said, the construction of between 5,000 and 6,000 new housing units in western Pierrefonds, a good portion of them directed at young families, will also be jeopardized.
Four developers have also agreed to donate 180 hectares of land that would serve as a green space and a buffer zone between the boulevard and new residential development — an arrangement that would have to be negotiated all over again, Worth said.
It’s the kind of political back-and-forth West Islanders have heard since the early 1980s when Sam Elkas was the provincial Liberal transport minister and, an extension of the 440 from Laval to the West Island was first promised, said Salvatore D’Urso.
“This is just par for the course,” said D’Urso, a Kirkland resident whose residential street, Henri Daoust St. now sees close to 10,000 cars a day – Highway-40 bound motorists trying to bypass the traffic bottlenecks on St. Charles Blvd. “We are used to lies.”
To read Brenda O’Farrell’s blog on this topic, click here.