Should Ste-Catherine St. be car-free?
Published Monday, January 13, 2014 6:14PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 14, 2014 7:59AM EST
There are big plans to celebrate Montreal's 375th anniversary in 2017, and one proposal is to revamp Ste-Catherine St., perhaps making a stretch of it pedestrian only.
It’s an idea Mayor Denis Coderre supports, at least for part of the year, but some disagree.
“I'm really open and really seduced by that idea,” said Coderre Monday. “We have to do it. We have no choice, because of the underground infrastructure.”
Coderre is referring to the crumbling road in dire need of replacement, including the road collapse in June caused by a faulty 120-year-old sewer pipe that runs along Ste-Catherine and in August when a sinkhole swallowed a backhoe.
Coderre referred to the problems as an opportunity to revamp Ste-Catherine in time for the city's 375th birthday.
“All the planets are aligned together to make it work, so the political will is there,” he said.
The business community, however, has its reservations about making a major artery in the heart of the city pedestrian-only.
Whether or not that happens, other changes to Ste-Catherine are necessary, said Michel Leblanc, head of the Montreal Chamber of Commerce.
“We need to widen the sidewalks. We have said that this will probably mean taking away parking spots at street level and putting them below street level,” he said.
On the street, merchants seem divided. Some high-end store managers told CTV Montreal their clients are drivers, but others, still, say pedestrian-only is the ideal way to compete with the likes of the South Shore’s Quartier 10-30.
“There will be more action on the street. The cars are really stopping people. There isn't any parking there anyway,” said Roger Azuelos of Boutique Emmanuel.
Before that can happen, the first phase of construction will take place between the Quartier des Spectacles and Simons at the corner of Mansfield St.
Some merchants fear a repeat of the three-year fiasco that killed so many businesses on St-Laurent St.
“We've had the experience already before,” said Azuelos. “When you have this kind of work, you stop the traffic by 50 per cent. If we stop traffic by 50 per cent, then we have 50 per cent of the sales.”
The city is working on a master plan this year; construction is set to begin next year.