Bike path still not part of Turcot Interchange plans

A Montreal city councillor wants the province to follow through on a plan to build a bike path and pedestrian walkway over the Turcot Interchange.

At a meeting about the project Tuesday evening, a representative from the Transport Ministry said the overpass — which would serve as a bike path, pedestrian walkway and park — is not in the plans after all, even after Transport Minister Laurent Lessard said in November he believed it should be built.

The Southwest borough has passed a motion in favour of the so-called "green bridge," and Coun. Craig Sauvé said he wants Mayor Denis Coderre to put more pressure on the province to get it done.

"I think if they give us an overpass that will at least give us just the mobility, and a way for cyclists and pedestrians to get from the Southwest to N.D.G., we'd be happy with that, because now we're being totally ignored," he said.

The bike path would facilitate travel between the Southwest and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhoods via the St-Jacques escarpment more easily.

Mayor Coderre in favour

Sauvé said he was told the city and government agreed to nix it.

"I don't understand how the city could refuse a big project like that, that would clearly offer more mobility for people in the western part of the city," he said.

However, a spokesperson for Mayor Denis Coderre said the Coderre administration remains in favour of creating a north-south link for cyclists and pedestrians as part of the new interchange.

"The mayor is in constant discussion with the various players for a very long time, well before Mr. Sauvé even thought of it," said Marc-André Gosselin in an emailed statement to CBC.

Unsure why bike path dropped

The overpass was part of the plan presented in 2010 for the new highway, but over the years, and under the tenure of six different transport ministers, it has disappeared, reappeared and then vanished again.

A spokesperson for the transport minister, Mathieu Gaudreault, told CBC the final blueprints of the project, accepted in 2012, excluded the green bridge because of its cost and technical complexity. Instead, Gaudreault said, planners made some of the sidewalks wider to try and create more green space.

Sauvé estimates the green bridge would cost about one per cent of the total project's $3.8-billion budget.

'Bait and switch?'

If the issue is money, then it should be found somewhere, said Derek Robertson, a member of the Southwest borough's Bon Voisinage committee and one of the residents at Tuesday's meeting.

"We have federal infrastructure money. We have provincial money. If it doesn't come from the Turcot project itself, it can come from a different envelope," he said. "There's a ways and means of doing it."

Robertson said the residents in attendance are concerned that the green bridge was taken out of the contract after the project won their support. 

The bridge "was an element that was key for me accepting this project," he said. "I think it was a classic bait and switch."

"This government has a responsibility to include active transportation in our transportation infrastructure," he said.

However, he said, Transport Ministry bureaucrats appear to be "controlling the strings" of the project — a situation Robertson said is being made more difficult by how frequently the transport portfolio has been shuffled from one minister to another in the Couillard cabinet.