550 trains a day: TMR residents fear REM onslaught
Town of Mount Royal residents used to seeing 62 suburban trains a day pass through their self-described “garden city” are up in arms over the realization that the number will rise to 550 a day with the coming of the REM rapid-transit light-rail line four years from now.
Since the rail line running through their community of 19,500 people will serve as a feeder line to four separate branches of the rail network once the project is completed, trains will be passing through TMR at the rate of one every 2.5 minutes during rush hours, which stretch over six hours each day. Outside of those periods, the trains will run roughly every five minutes. Trains will be in service 20 hours a day, from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m.
“You have hundreds of families living around the track, some of them have balconies almost on top of the railway track,” said Georges Sayegh, who has lived in the community for 29 years. He helped collect 500 signatures on a petition protesting the plans. “There is a noise impact as well as a visual impact. You will see trains all the time. …
“What we will get is the equivalent of a highway in the heart of the city, except with trains running on it instead of cars.”
Town officials expected 100 people at an information session held Tuesday at city hall. Nearly 300 showed up, 100 of whom had to be turned away for lack of space.
“That’s a sign that people are really, really concerned,” TMR Mayor Philippe Roy said. While residents support the need for the REM rapid-transit line, in terms of the volume of traffic running through TMR, “there is no more social acceptability of this project,” he said.
Citizens spoke of the town being cleaved in two by the new Réseau express métropolitain (REM), the 67-kilometre light-rail line that will connect downtown Montreal with the South Shore, the airport, Montreal’s West Island and the North Shore, and connect with the suburban train line that runs east to Mascouche. Three of the light rail system’s four branches will transit through TMR, using an updated version of the existing Deux-Montagnes commuter train line.
Jean-Vincent Lacroix, head of communications for the infrastructure arm of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec known as CDPQ Infra responsible for the construction of the $6.3-billion project, said it’s important to note the new electric trains will be much lighter, shorter and quieter than the current models running on the Deux-Montagnes line. They will be smaller and lighter than Montreal’s metro-cars.
CDPQ Infra will be conducting sound tests and meeting with working groups that will include citizens to figure out what noisereducing mitigation measures need to be added before construction is completed.
Mayor Roy said there is a relatively simple solution. Of the 1.8 kilometres of track that runs through TMR, more than half is already several metres below ground level, cutting down the noise and visual pollution of the trains. Citizens and the city want CDPQ Infra to put all of the future line into a similar trench, which Roy estimates would entail digging down for a stretch of roughly 500 metres, while the tracks are being ripped up to put in new rail lines. He notes that the Caisse agreed to tunnel beneath wetlands near the airport to preserve environmental spaces, but has so far refused TMR’s request because they say it would be too expensive and time consuming. The extra costs are estimated by the city at between $40 million and $90 million. The Caisse would have the option to cover the rail lines in the future and sell or lease the property for commercial or residential purposes, Roy said.
“We don’t understand why the Caisse doesn’t want to talk about it when they decided to dig a tunnel near the airport to preserve snakes and frogs,” Roy said. “If they can do that for the wetlands, you would think they could do this for the most densely populated residential community on the whole REM project.”
Town of Mount Royal residents want all of the future REM line to be below ground level.