Cemetery curators join outcry against Mount Royal road closure
Cemeteries on Mount Royal are now joining in the outcry as Montreal gets set to go ahead with its plan to block through traffic over the mountain.
Lionel Perez, the opposition leader at City Hall, said Tuesday that the plan, which begins June 2, lacks vision and fails to address the safety concerns that are the city's justification for the change.
Administrators of Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery are concerned that while funeral processions will be able to enter the cemetery, day-to-day visitors will not have access to the main entrance during the pilot project.
“It's a lack of empathy and recognition for what these individuals are going through,” said Perez.
The directors of the Mount Royal cemetery feel the same way, since its main entrance is at the meeting of Camilien Houde Way and Remembrance Rd.
They point out the other entrance is from a dead-end street in Outremont and is not very visible.
In addition, the cemeteries point out that many people who visit their loved ones on a daily basis are elderly and cannot walk very far, nor take public transportation.
Mayor Valerie Plante said mourners would be able to use a bus stop near the main entrance, or could drive to other cemetery gates.
“If there is a funeral cortege, they will be able to use Camillien-Houde to enter the cemetery. If you're coming for a few hours to visit, of course you can use the other entrance or you can also take the bus,” she said.
STM buses, school buses, emergency vehicles and funeral processions would be able to travel over the mountain, as would pedestrians and cyclists, but cars would be banned from a 550 stretch of road near the SPVM stables.
A new bus line, the 711, will run on weekends until June 17, then run seven days a week until August 18.
Those options don't satisfy Miguel Castellanos, the curator of Canada's largest cemetery , Notre-Dame-des-Neiges.
“Most people visiting here are elderly. It's easier to drive through the cemetery and difficult to walk from the bus,” he said.
Last October, 18-year-old bicyclist Clement Ouimet was killed when an American tourist made an unlawful U-turn on the mountain and drove into his path.
Following its election, the Valerie Plante administration decided it would close the roadway to through traffic, meaning drivers from the east would be able to reach the Smith House parking lot, while those on the west side of the mountain could park at the Beaver lake parking lot.
Public consultations on the closure will take place in May, and the city's public consultation office should be hearing from the public over the summer.
Perez said that's a mistake.
"Montrealers are open and ready to explore different options but it has to be part of a comprehensive vision of something that they're going to say absolutely that is something that we're going to be proud of, that makes sense to us, that's ambitious. And the administration never gave the opportunity to Montrealers to speak ahead of time, before the pilot project, nor any other stakeholders," said Perez.
The traffic restrictions will be in place from June 2 until Oct. 31, at which point the city promises to re-evaluate the pilot project.
The city's administration notes the issue has been subject to hearings before, in 1998 and in 2008, although the Public Consultation office (OCPM) summary for 2008 mentions several consultations about Mount Royal but makes no mention of closing Camillien Houde road.