The Ministère des Transports du Québec recently issued the first call for tenders for major repair work on 5 kilometers (the elevated section) of the Metropolitan Expressway, which otherwise is at risk of collapsing!
The announcement has raised many questions. Why not build the expressway underground like the Big Dig in Boston? Why not make this infrastructure the High Line* of Montréal? Why not build it at ground level like the recently renovated section of the Bonaventure Expressway? These are all legitimate questions revolving around the same issue: why make it exactly the same? Why can’t this urban scar be erased for the benefit of neighbouring communities and all those who need to cross this expressway by foot or bike? This issue must be addressed. We have to figure out the best way to rebuild this major thoroughfare, sixty years after its construction in order to at least partially correct its detrimental effects.
In terms of active mobility, the most harmful impact of this urban highway, apart from poor air quality, is the fact that, even elevated, it constitutes a major obstacle for pedestrians and cyclists who must cross the service roads daily (Crémazie Boulevard). The death of cyclist Clément Bazin in 2018 is a sad reminder. Apart from the north-south axis (Christophe-Colomb) and a tunnel trail in the Pointe-aux-Prairies Nature Park, this expressway has no protected crossing in its elevated section that would qualify as a true pedestrian/cyclist passageway.
As citizens and organizations of the neighbouring sectors (mainly Ahuntcycle, the Association des piétons et cyclistes de Villeray–Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension) have been demanding for some time, work should be undertaken in the short term, in cooperation with the Ministère des Transports and the City of Montréal. Let’s take advantage of this renovation project to at least create several walkways under the Metropolitan Highway equipped with the latest technological signage and lighting, in order to ensure truly safe passage for cyclists and pedestrians. And in the longer term, in keeping with Vision zéro and sustainable mobility, let’s participate in the ideation process of what this abused urban corridor – an unfortunate result of our development practices in the 50s and 60s – could ultimately become.
*In New York, the High Line is a suspended urban linear park in the borough of Manhattan, located on a portion (2.3 km) of the old overhead railway tracks of the Lower West Side.
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Things are also happening in Québec City, where a consultation forum on road safety aimed at reviewing public road sharing by various users was held on January 27. You can read the recommendations presented by Vélo Québec at this event here.