Q. Are the new sidewalk extensions on Westminster Ave. N. in Montreal West an error? My theory is the people who designed them and the person who contracted it miscommunicated. They appear to have been made too wide. Cars can’t even make the turn safely from the side street going north onto Westminster because it is next to impossible to not cross over the line into ongoing traffic, forget about any larger vehicle. Buses and large trucks now hit the curb.

Maria Roberts

A. There was no error, says Montreal West Mayor Beny Masella. He said the sidewalks are being widened at two intersections – where Westminster meets Curzon and Parkside Sts. – to get drivers to stop at stop signs. The project cost $140,000.

During public consultations in 2008, residents complained about lead-foot drivers on the street, Masella said.

“The cars were just not stopping,” he said. “We’re not talking about rolling stops – the old-fashioned American stops – we’re talking about people not even slowing down, just going through the stop signs.”

Westminster splits Montreal West in two. “All the recreation locations and all the schools are on the west side so I have a lot of people crossing that street,” Masella said.

The town called in a traffic engineer, whose sidewalk-extension plan was validated by another engineer, Masella said.

Thanks to the new extensions, cars driving either north or south on Westminster now have to slow down and stop when they reach Curzon and Parkside. “Because the extensions are in your way, you cannot continue in a straight line you have to curve around them,” Masella said.

Having the curb jut out into the street also makes pedestrians more visible.

“Pedestrians are moved away from the background, you see them better,” Masella said. “And it shortens the distance that they’re in the middle of the street. Before pedestrians were crossing four lanes, now they’re only crossing two.”

New markings on the road make it clear where cars turning from side streets have to be when they’re turning, he added. Cars have a full lane to turn into.

Some residents fear the new curb extensions won’t be visible in winter but Masella said he does not expect problems because Westminster is the first road that gets cleared after snowfalls.

“If three or four months down the line we see we’ve made the situation worse, we’ll fix it,” Masella said. “It’s nothing to shave them back a bit. I’m not saying I’m God and that everything the council does is right. If we made a mistake we can always fix it. It’s just concrete.”

Another major problem on Westminster has to do with train tracks that cross the street just south of Sherbrooke St. Dozens of commuter trains a day set off railway-crossing barriers, backing up traffic on Westminster, Sherbrooke and many nearby cross streets.

The Agence métropolitaine de transport has been studying ways to alleviate the problem, which is expected to worsen as new train departures are added.

Masella said the AMT is expected to reveal results of the study to the town soon.

Options include a car overpass or underpass but Masella said those options aren’t feasible because they would destroy Westminster’s business district.

“You can’t change the grade of the road,” he said. “The town’s position is the only acceptable solution there is to put the tracks down into a trench.”

Whatever option is chosen, a proposed fix is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars, money that the AMT currently doesn’t have.

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette