Suburban mayors are going crazy over suggested solutions to the 440 West Island problem. Come, gather 'round the fireplace as I explain it to you.
Many moons ago, the Quebec Transport Department figured out that expropriating land from homeowners to build highways was a very expensive and time-consuming process. To help solve it, they asked themselves: Wouldn't it be a good idea to "buy" the land now for a highway development later?
Enter the 440. Expecting to eventually link this East-West Laval highway to Highway 40 in Kirkland, the government planned a route for it and reserved the land so nobody would build anything there. At the time, of course, the entire area was undeveloped forest and farmland. Now, with development all around the proposed route in both Laval and the West Island, it's easy to see on a satellite picture where the highway is going to go: on the winding strip of green between those houses.
Hoping to alleviate the West Island's rush-hour traffic problem, Pierrefonds wants to build an "urban boulevard" on the Montreal Island part of the link, between Gouin Blvd. and Highway 40. It would, Pierrefonds mayor Monique Worth says, alleviate traffic on the main north-south axes: St. Charles Blvd., St. John's Blvd. and Sources Blvd.
OK, I get St. Charles. But Sources? By what stretch of the imagination is some route that takes Sources now going to benefit by this new road 10 km west?
Anyway, Worth cut in to her own argument in a CTV News interview today when she admitted the obvious: That rush-hour travellers to downtown would "still hit traffic on the 40". The other obviousness is that almost all of the northern West Island is east of this proposed boulevard, meaning they won't use it to get downtown.
The idea isn't necessarily bad. It will help alleviate traffic on St. Charles which heads between the northern West Island and western off-island areas. But it's not going to help one bit with the Great West Island Trek Downtown, whose biggest traffic problem is the Decarie Circle (and Highway 20/Highway 13 merge).
As for Highway 440, the link would have some advantages, the biggest one being a fixed link between Ile Bizard and Laval. Currently, though there are three ferries, there is no fixed link from Highway 40 to the north shore between Highway 13 and Hawkesbury, Ontario. That makes some significant detours.
But the proposed link also runs right through Ile Bizard's nature park. And cutting down all those trees to build a highway is not only unpretty, it kind of goes against the whole "environment" thing.
Let's start with small steps, the first being a fixed link between Ile Bizard and Laval. When the roads along that route start overflowing with traffic, then we can talk about building a highway.
Until then, keep the right-of-way reserved for now. Maybe have a dirt path for people to bike through. It's trees, and they're good, mmm'kay.