550 trains a day: TMR res­i­dents fear REM on­slaught

Montreal Gazette - - CITY - RENÉ BRUEM­MER rbruem­mer@post­media.com twit­ter.com/rene­bruem­mer

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.”

PIERRE OBEN­DRAUF FILES

Town of Mount Royal res­i­dents want all of the fu­ture REM line to be below ground level.

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