Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante protected herself with members of her party and several environmental, pedestrian and cyclist groups, all supporting her new vision for Mount Royal.
“We say the mountain must be greener and we are doing it for future generations,” Plante said.
Mayor Plante says she wants to add more green spaces to the mountain by closing Camillien-Houde to traffic and replacing the asphalt with trees.
It will remain open only to cyclists, pedestrians and emergency vehicles.
This is a hard blow for the approximately 10,000 drivers who travel on this artery daily.
“I’m definitely behind this decision and I know it’s going to change and ask people to adapt,” Plante said.
Plante always maintained that she wanted the mountain to be a destination and not a shortcut for motorists.
But the mayor is not keeping his promise to keep Camillien-Houde open to traffic, following the failure of a pilot project which closed the road for five months.
Plante made the decision after 18-year-old cyclist Clément Ouimet was fatally struck by a car making an illegal U-turn while descending the mountain.
Public consultations were conducted and in 2019, the Office de Consultation Publique de Montréal (OCPM) published its report, concluding that the results of the pilot project were disappointing and “inconclusive”.
He said limiting automobile traffic on the mountain cannot be done without strengthening public transportation options to access and traverse the mountain.
“I feel like the world has changed a lot,” Plante said.
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The mayor says the effects of climate change, the need to protect biodiversity and the pandemic were the driving forces behind this decision.
“It is with all this new reality that we are taking this step forward,” explained Plante.
The opposition criticizes Plante’s change in tone and says it ignores the fact that there is a clear lack of social acceptance regarding the road closure.
“We don’t think about these people, we don’t think about the institution of the OCPM,” declared Aref Salem, the leader of Ensemble Montréal.
Salem also wonders where the 10,000 vehicles that use the mountain daily will go.
Those responsible for the Mount Royal Cemetery fear that they will end up there.
“We are afraid that people will just pa*s through our cemetery,” said Maxime Jacques, general manager of the cemetery.
Plante promises to work with all parties involved.
“We will find solutions,” she said.
Work on the project will not begin until 2027, once current construction on Remembrance Road is complete. Remembrance Road will provide access to the mountain from the west side of town.
The overhaul is expected to be completed by 2029.
–With files from Kalina Laframboise and Annabelle Olivier of Global
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