No way out: Recent gas leak highlights Côte Saint-Luc’s need for Cavendish Extension

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‘We definitely need another route out,’ says Mayor Mitchell Brownstein as negotiations continue

The Sept. 6 gas leak in Côte Saint-Luc caused major gridlock throughout Montreal’s west end, making it a struggle to get in and out for motorists and emergency crews alike.(Navneet Pall)

Côte Saint-Luc resident Michael Litvack woke on Sept. 6 to discover his bedside clock had stopped working at around 8:15 a.m.

It quickly became apparent he was among the more than 10,000 Hydro-Québec customers in Montreal’s west end without power after authorities shut it off due to a gas leak near the intersection of Kildare Road and Cavendish Boulevard.

As a crew repaired the broken gas pipe and nearby residences were evacuated, the Cavendish Boulevard underpass — one of just two ways out of Côte Saint-Luc — was only accessible by side streets.

The main part of Côte Saint-Luc is surrounded by train tracks and a rail yard, making the underpasses on Cavendish and Westminster Avenue the only two routes out of a suburban municipality of more than 30,000 people.

Côte Saint-Luc’s roads are generally quiet but, with one underpass partially blocked, the gas leak ignited a traffic nightmare. Gridlock around both underpasses lasted for several hours despite the Montreal fire department’s request that motorists avoid the area.

“People in my part of Côte Saint-Luc were stuck,” said Litvack, who struggled to get a blood test that day. “Businesses had to close. Schools had to close. Doctors appointments had to be rescheduled.”

Côte Saint-Luc’s Cavendish Boulevard underpass is regularly busy with motorists, trucks, buses and pedestrians as it is one of the only ways out of the city. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

It served as a stark reminder of how Côte Saint-Luc’s design leaves it vulnerable, he said.

The municipality has seen big changes in the last decade as new homes and residential buildings are added every year. Several large-scale, multi-storey apartment complexes are currently under construction and there is talk of more on the way.

“It’s going to get worse,” Litvak said. “As the cars increase and the people increase, the problems will increase.”

The Westminster Avenue underpass is one of Côte Saint-Luc’s two access points. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

There are four emergency gates that allow vehicles to drive over train tracks, but opening them requires coordination with the train companies.

The best solution, most say, would be a third exit to the north, heading to Montreal’s Saint-Laurent borough and the Town of Mount Royal, but the so-called Cavendish Extension has been firmly anchored in the discussion phase for some five decades — those discussions were delayed two more years earlier this week.

Mayor says Cavendish Extension is in the works

After the gas leak, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein has been reminding residents that he is working hard on bringing the Cavendish Extension to life.

“We definitely need another route out,” he told CBC News.

It is no longer a question of if, it is a question of when, said Brownstein, noting he’s made it a top priority since assuming office in 2016.

The project has been in Montreal’s capital work budget since 2015 with a completion date originally set for 2020. Currently, Montreal has $13 million earmarked for the cause and money is set aside at the provincial level as well.

While Canadian Pacific (CP) is asking for a costly tunnel under the entire rail yard, Brownstein said he, along with the other levels of government, is pushing for two underpasses under the two separate tracks just north of Cavendish Boulevard.

Rather than being an alternate to the nearby Decarie Expressway, it would be a quieter, ground-level roadway that, fitting with the neighbourhood’s character, connects Côte Saint-Luc to Mount Royal’s Royalmount Avenue and St-Laurent’s section of Cavendish Boulevard.

The indirect route would follow a to-be-built, fenced-in road through the rail yard and a small portion of private land owned by the property developer, Olymbec.

The properties owned by Olymbec are in the starred area. (Google Maps)

Montreal reserved that undeveloped land for expropriation and, on Thursday, the agglomeration council extended the reserve for another two years, to buy time for Montreal to continue its negotiations with CP.

The future of the Cavendish Extension hinges on those negotiations — negotiations that have been ongoing for a number of years.

“We just need to keep pushing to get the proper road built that isn’t a highway, but allows us a way out of our city,” said Brownstein. The renewed two-year extension on the reserved land, he added, means “everybody is on a timeline.”

A stretch of Cavendish Boulevard in Côte Saint-Luc was closed due to a Sept. 6 gas leak that created a traffic jam so bad that Montreal’s fire department struggled to access the site. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

However, Montreal also extended negotiations by another two years Tuesday and MNA David Birnbaum described that decision as “disappointing” because it green lights further delays.

“We have always said and continue to say, we will be absolutely and fundamentally involved in the development of the Cavendish Extension,” he said, describing it as not only important for the safety of residents, but also for the economy.

He said he’s called meetings between all the players involved to accelerate the process and the province has been offering support.

“We’re all ready to be a major part of this project and it’s time for it to move forward.”

For that to happen, he concluded, Montreal needs to complete negotiations with CP.

CBC reached out to CP for comment, but didn’t hear back in time for publication.

To help push the project forward, Côte Saint-Luc Coun. David Tordjman is encouraging residents to raise their own voices to the cause as, he said, the gas leak brought safety to the forefront of the discussion.

With Quebec’s general election heating up and Canada’s election just around the corner, he said, “We need more firm action from all levels of government.”

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Cavendish Boulevard extension may be a pipe dream

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Global News reports that the Cavendish extension dream may fade completely in 2 years from now. After endless discussion, pronouncements and media opportunities over the last 50 years we may be down to the wire on whether this project will come to fruition.

Montreal city council passed a motion last Tuesday to extend the negotiation deadline with CN and CP Rail by two years, according to Global News.

This means city officials have 24 months to reach a deal with the rail companies to allow for the extension of the boulevard over their tracks — but no more extensions will be granted after that period.

So what’s the problem?

Cote Saint-Luc has wanted to see this plan come about since the late 1990s. It was a major promise in the merger debacle of the early 2000s. The former City of Saint-Laurent and current Borough of the same name (and same mayor) is also in favour. Local Members of the National Assembly have been on board for years as has the Member of Parliament, notably Anthony Housefather is his capacities of Borough Councillor, CSL Mayor and MP for Mount-Royal.

But Montreal and the province have been mired in construction gridlock across the Island. Resources have been prioritized elsewhere and municipal, provincial and federal funding has been allocated for years to come. Turcot will be a mess for several more years. The REM project will keep us tied up for the next 5 years too. And those are just some of the biggies.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante is no friend to motorists! And the upcoming Quebec election dust will have to settle for us to know what new priorities lie ahead.

This will not be an easy time for Mayors Brownstein and de Sousa who must get the necessary major players around the table to make things happen. The project cannot advance without the next Quebec premier and the Mayor of Montreal giving the nod of approval.

Time may be running out on this critical infrastructure plan and 50 years of dreaming may go up in smoke without concrete action, and fast.

 

Global News:  Cavendish Boulevard extension faces deadline

For more information on the history of the Cavendish extension , search this blog.

Tempo question is a hot potato

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In my words: The issue of whether to permit tempos in Cote Saint-Luc has dogged City Council for decades. Mayor Bernard Lang was always opposed, citing an unsightly neighbourhood. Early in my mandate I argued that the hardship for those homeowners without a garage (pretty much west of Leger Ave all the way to Wentworth, in District 5) required extra consideration beyond aesthetics. Council agreed and this specific exception was granted.In my years of polling residents, door by door in District 6, a significant minority spoke out in favour of these wind-flapping tarpaulin tunnels for their street. But the majority, at least 3 out of 4 homeowners, were not favourable to the idea.Times have changed, there are more cars than ever in CSL and who likes to shovel anyhow?

This issue will be a political hot-potato, pitting one resident against another. There are no easy answers and everyone is right in their own case. But the bigger question is who will be right for the entire neighbourhood?

Just asking the question is fraught with political risk. You cannot please everyone and will likely annoy many. Breaking into an unprecedented 73 zones will mean some areas will wiggle through while many more will attain the 12 requisite signatures to call for a politically-undesirable referendum.

The matter of tempos was left dormant for many years since allowing just a few, in a specific neighbourhood to break with the rule. Perhaps it should be left alone for few more years.

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Tempo question to be put to CSLers in 73 zones

The City of Côte St. Luc will publish a notice Oct. 3 informing residents in 73 zones that they will have an opportunity to ask for a register if they oppose a proposed bylaw to generally allow temporary car shelters (tempos) in most of the territory.

Currently, tempos are allowed if a resident does not have a carport or garage. Several residents with garages were also able to have them by providing the city with a doctor’s note.

Council passed a second draft bylaw last week on tempos during the regular public meeting. In each of the 73 zones, 12 signatures would be required for there to be a register to ask for a referendum. Residents will have eight days to sign the register if they oppose allowing more tempos.

“It’s a hard one,” Mayor Mitchell Brownstein told a well-attended public consultation meeting on the issue the same night. “We know there’s a movement in certain areas of the city where people wants tempos, and certain areas where they don’t want tempos.”

“I am not, at any point, going to recommend that this council proceed with a referendum — it’s a very expensive procedure and it causes division within the community,” the Mayor added. “But if I see within the 73 zones that there are many in a particular district that got 12 signatures — and it’s not very hard to get 12 signatures — I want the council to see through this process which zones are going to be in favour or not.

“I have a feeling, in areas where the homes are more expensive, where people have two-car garages, they’re going to get the 12 signatures pretty quickly and send the message to council.”

Brownstein also said he believes that in areas with no or one-car garages, or smaller homes, the residents will be more inclined to want tempos, and not sign for a register.

During the more than half-hour public consultation, residents came out passionately for and against the proposed tempo bylaw, citing aesthetics, security (for those against) and the city’s harsh winters and senior population (for those in favour). Judging by the applause in the room, most of those attending were in favour of expanding tempo use.

“In the wintertime, utility sometimes outstrips aesthetics,” said a resident. “I support it… I will definitely solicit for tempos.”

According to the city’s website, the new rules would allow “no more than one [tempo] on an existing, conforming driveway,” they “can only be in place between Nov. 1 and April 15,” and they “must be translucent white canvas with clear windows, fitted with a dismantable tubular metallic frame.”

Brownstein later acknowledged to The Suburban that council could have some tough decisions to make area by area.

Councillor Ruth Kovac, who represents District 8, said one of her concerns is disputes between neighbours.

“They’re going to come to the city looking for us to resolve those disputes, and we’re going to be in the middle of it,” she said. “It’s one thing to legislate, and it’s another to deal with the fallout. I’m very comfortable with what we have done — give permission by exception.”

 

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Read more:

CSL to relook at tempo policy, The Suburban 2009

Why can’t Montreal clear the snow?

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Van Horne congestion due to snowbanks and illegally parked car, on Feb. 12, 2018

Traffic continues to be snarled on Van Horne, west of Decarie, for more than two weeks.  The Borough of Cote des Neiges – NDG’s inability to clear the snowbank is baffling. No less than three types of ‘No Parking’ signs have come and gone yet the snow remains. The afternoon/evening rush hour on this route routinely sees a single lineup of vehicles backing up for blocks, into Decarie, sometimes all the way to Westbury. Is this because of incompetence or lack of resources?

Just a few blocks further the Town of Hampstead does a reasonable job of clearing nearly two full lanes, doubling the flow rate. And beyond that Cote Saint-Luc practically melts the snow from curb to curb.

The police routinely fail to enforce the No Parking restrictions on Van Horne (which I lobbied for several years ago). So even if the snowbank would be cleared illegally parked cars often obstruct the right lane (as photographed above at 5:20PM).

So what’s the problem in Montreal? We should be world leaders at clearing snow. Instead, we’re caught off guard by snow storms, can’t clear ice from sidewalks, our streets are riddled with potholes, and we needlessly waste time in traffic jams. Let’s hope the new administration figures this out quickly and get’s it right for next season. And ticket that car!

Watch and share: Nashen plans for Traffic calming in Cote Saint-Luc

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You’ve told me that you’re concerned about slowing down traffic on our streets. I work with our experts to find the right traffic calming measures: I got the ball rolling with painted lines to visually narrow the roadway as well as bollards to slow down cars, and bumped out sidewalks to make our streets safer to cross and for children at play. Humps are sometimes necessary too – especially on long residential stretches. I brought the idea of those middle-of-the-road crosswalk and “Stop for Pedestrians in Crosswalk” signs to CSL – I plan to further expand these initiatives.

La question de la circulation est devenue primordiale et à cet effet, j’ai initié plusieurs mesures afin de rendre nos rues plus sécuritaires pour les piétons, les enfants et les conducteurs. J’ai joué un rôle prédominant en lançant des panneaux de signalisation pour avertir les automobilistes que des piétons traversent la rue.

Meeting the residents, door to door

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Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and I meet up with Whitehorne resident Shalom Zobin

 

The response we’ve received at the doors is overwhelmingly positive. The mayor has been making his way through every district of Cote Saint-Luc while I work my way through District 6. It’s wonderful to meet so many residents, to hear their concerns and to answer their questions. I wish I could meet each and every one of my constituents but understandably not everyone is home when I pass by. However, more than ever we are all connected be it by phone, email, social media or by other means.

We are so happy to hear that the vast majority of residents are very pleased with life in Cote Saint-Luc, with city services and programs and indeed with the Administration and Mayor and Council.

Some residents have very local concerns about situations on their block and these need to be addressed, street by street. Much has to do with slowing down traffic. While we’ve made several improvements, say residents, such as lowering speed limits and traffic calming measures, more needs to be done. Working together with our traffic engineers and local police we will find new solutions to meet the challenges in keeping our residents safe.

Please reach out to us by phone, email or on Facebook. Mayor Brownstein and I are pleased to respond to any questions and we look forward, with your support on November 5, to continuing to serve you and to keep you safe.

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La réponse que nous avons reçue aux portes est extrêmement positive. Le maire a fait son chemin dans tous les districts de Cote Saint-Luc pendant que je continue mon travaille dans le district 6. C’est formidable de rencontrer tant de résidents, d’entendre leurs préoccupations et de répondre à leurs questions. J’aimerais rencontrer tous les résidents de district 6, mais, de façon compréhensible, tout le monde n’est pas à la maison quand je passe. Cependant, plus que jamais, nous sommes tous connectés par téléphone, courrier électronique, médias sociaux ou autre moyen.

Nous sommes tellement heureux d’apprendre que la grande majorité des résidents sont très satisfaits de la vie à Cote Saint-Luc, avec les services et les programmes de la ville et même avec l’Administration et le Maire et le Conseil.

Certains résidents ont des préoccupations très locales concernant les situations sur leur rue qui doivent être abordées, rue par rue. Ont parle beaucoup de ralentissement du trafic. Bien que nous ayons fait plusieurs améliorations, disons les résidents, tels que l’abaissement des limites de vitesse et les mesures d’apaisement de la circulation, il faut faire plus. En collaboration avec nos ingénieurs de la circulation et la police locale, nous trouverons de nouvelles solutions pour relever les défis de la sécurité de nos résidents.

Veuillez nous contacter par téléphone, par courrier électronique ou sur Facebook. Le maire Brownstein et moi-même sommes ravis de répondre à toutes les questions et nous espérons, avec votre appui le 5 novembre, de continuer à vous servir et à vous garder en sécurité.

 

 

Making CSL streets safer by limiting truck traffic

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At the September 11, 2017 Public council Meeting the City Council notice was given for a new truck route in order to regulate traffic in Côte Saint-Luc.

According to the Highway Safety Code, a By-Law regulating the traffic of trucks must be approved by the Minister of Transport. Once approved, trucks and tool vehicle traffic will be permitted on Cavendish Boulevard and Côte Saint-Luc Road as well as on all streets throughout the City for local deliveries.

Côte Saint-Luc will also request that all neighbouring cities adopt a similar resolution in support of this new regulation.

This new By-Law will improve the flow of traffic on Fleet Road which is not capable of handling trailer trucks. It will also keep trucks mainly on our two major boulevards and off our side streets as much as possible. Of course, local deliveries will always be permitted.

As the councillor responsible for the Pedestrian and Traffic Safety dossier I was pleased to give notice for this motion. Safety and security has always been my primary focus as City Councillor and any ideas to keep pedestrians safe and vehicles moving at a safe speed are always welcomed and reviewed with our traffic engineers.

 

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