(Quebec) Should we bury the wires? Drop the platform? How to save as many trees as possible?
The race to succeed Régis Labeaume gives rise to a debate in Quebec that will be repeated in several other cities in the province where tram projects are emerging: how to reintegrate into the urban fabric this means of transport, which has disappeared for more than 60 years?
“We believe in it, in the tram. But this project can be improved, there has been a lack of leadership ”, launched in a recent debate the strong and proud leader of Quebec, Bruno Marchand.
“For us, the tram is an essential project. On the other hand, the outgoing mayor and his team have done such a bad job that there is no longer any social acceptability, ”added Democracy Quebec leader Jean Rousseau.
Three and a half years after the unveiling with great fanfare of the tram project, the debate is still raging in the capital.
This is because the tram has never undergone the ballot box test. In 2017, Régis Labeaume promised a “structuring” public transport system project. Many expected a rapid bus system.
Then, a few months after his election, he proposed the tramway project, all the same studied for years in Quebec.
Changes … or not?
“The project that is on the table at the moment has never been submitted to the voters. It has never been the subject of a real public consultation either, ”notes Fanny Tremblay-Racicot, professor at the National School of Public Administration (ENAP).
It is quite legitimate for a party to want to make changes to the project because there have never been any following comments from citizens.
Fanny Tremblay-Racicot, professor at ENAP
Four of the five main candidates for mayor favor the tram. But three of them think the project can still be improved.
The runner-up to the outgoing mayor, Marie-Josée Savard, pleads that making changes to the project would lead to significant delays.
The executive director of the organization Vivre en ville partly shares the candidate’s reading. “At this point, we are working on calls for tenders. the deal policy is done. Reopening the project could endanger it, ”explains Christian Savard.
“I think at some point you have to move on. It is already very politicized. There, the stars are aligned. Having said that, I think that on the issue of tree conservation, there are still gains to be made. ”
“Dividing a neighborhood is unacceptable”
The other candidates – and many citizens – are concerned about several aspects of the 19 km project, which includes a 2.1 km tunnel to connect the Lower Town and the Upper Town.
MM. Marchand and Rousseau, for example, questioned the desirability of a platform. The tram will pass on a kind of concrete base, so as to separate it from car traffic.
This will have the effect of limiting the left turn of cars at certain intersections. “Dividing a neighborhood is unacceptable”, recently launched Mr. Marchand.
But the project office explains that such a platform allows the tram to travel faster, while limiting the risk of accidents.
“Left turns in urban areas are what cause the majority of accidents,” notes Christian Savard. This is not bad news, it will promote the safety of pedestrians and even cars. In Montreal the left turns are very limited and things are not going badly. ”
Bruno Marchand also hinted that he intended, if elected, to study the possibility of burying the power cables of the tram in “historic areas”.
How many trees to cut?
But the question of trees is certainly the one that is most talked about. The administration initially estimated that it would have to cut 1701 trees on the route, which it undertook to replant twice. Then that number rose to 651.
Marie-Josée Savard assures us that the chosen consortium will have to preserve as many trees as possible.
Why are these hardwoods in danger? This is because in order to be able to insert the tram into the street, its influence will have to be increased in certain places. The roots of some trees will be cut off (see illustrations). In some cases, the operation will be fatal.
This is why it is difficult to predict how many mature trees will be felled.
The right-of-way of the street will, for example, be increased on Boulevard René-Lévesque. Many citizens fear losing majestic trees.
However, recalls Professor Jean Dubé, it is largely to maintain two automobile lanes on this artery that the right-of-way is increased.
Perhaps the easiest solution to save trees on René-Lévesque is to remove a highway. But we’re not here. Logically, it makes sense. But politically, it is not.
Jean Dubé, professor at the planning faculty of Laval University
Christian Savard, he thinks that trees could be preserved on René-Lévesque by keeping two lanes for cars, but narrower.
In short, the debate on the tram has resumed in the capital. “Perhaps this debate would be less if we were a city already used to public transport like Montreal. There might not be an outcry, ”says Mr. Dubé, co-author of the essay. How to survive the controversies over transportation in Quebec?.
One thing is certain, according to him: a new consensus in favor of public transport has emerged in Quebec. Jean-François Gosselin, who, four years ago, did not want to know anything about a structuring public transport system, this time proposed a light metro project.
“There, it is made a no brainer : everyone agrees that we need public transport. This is what I find rather interesting. ”
Estimated budget for the capital’s tramway, including 1.8 billion from Quebec and 1.2 billion from Ottawa