Bike path taking priority over Cavendish extension, mayors say

Bike path taking priority over Cavendish extension, mayors say

Bike path taking priority over Cavendish extension, mayors say

City delays call for tenders on environmental impact study but issues one for design of a Réseau express vélo in the area.

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Suburban mayors are baffled by the latest stall to extend the long-delayed extension of Cavendish Blvd.

The Plante administration confirmed to the Montreal Gazette this week that it held off on issuing a call for tenders for an environmental impact study of the project.

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However, the city did issue a call for tenders for the area — for a firm to design a project to build a bicycle path that would run along Jean-Talon St., to begin at Pie-IX Blvd. and end at the link to a future Cavendish extension.

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A document obtained by the Gazette shows the city recently issued a call for tenders to design a Réseau express vélo (REV) on Jean-Talon St. and an extension of Jean-Talon to Cavendish Blvd. However, that contract doesn’t include designing any part of the Cavendish extension. The mayors point out that with no work moving forward on the Cavendish extension, the bicycle path could well be completed before any work begins on Cavendish.

“It’s a bicycle path to nowhere,” quipped Mitchell Brownstein, the mayor of Côte-St-Luc, in a phone interview Friday.

Town of Mount Royal Mayor Peter Malouf said this is a “betrayal” of his citizens and thousands of commuters.

“We were misled. I don’t know if it was deliberate or what, but it’s certainly disturbing,” Malouf said. “Why is a bicycle path taking priority over an access that will be beneficial to the environment and the economy of all the municipalities involved?”

Plante administration spokesperson Marikym Gaudreault said the city will study the REV on Jean-Talon, and it is now prioritizing extending Cavendish from its end in Côte-St-Luc to Jean-Talon St. As for the rest of the project — to link Cavendish to Royalmount, and then build a link through St-Laurent and T.M.R. — that is delayed indefinitely.

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“The project will begin with the segment that is most urgent, which is linking Jean-Talon to Cavendish,” Gaudreault said in a written statement Friday. “Over the course of the last few weeks, new inputs coming from important partners were added that forced us to take a step back in order to better plan the project and preserve all the public transit options.”

The Cavendish extension is seen as crucial to alleviating congestion in the west end, as it would serve as an alternative to the Décarie Expressway and Décarie Blvd. The project would also include a public transit component that could shuttle commuters from the centre of Côte-St-Luc to the Namur métro station in roughly five minutes.

Cavendish is also important for several current and future residential projects: the Royalmount development under construction in T.M.R., the Midtown housing project in St-Laurent and Côte-St-Luc’s planned redevelopments of the Cavendish Mall, Décarie Square and the Côte-St-Luc Shopping Centre.

The extension is also a condition of an agreement with the province when it ceded the land of the former Hippodrome horse-racing track to the city for a 6,000-unit housing project in the area currently under study.

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In September, the Plante administration voted in favour of a motion brought to the agglomeration council by Brownstein and Malouf to issue a call for tenders in October to conduct an environmental assessment of the impact of the project. The environmental assessment is a key step before any project can be brought to the province’s Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) for public hearings.

Reacting to news of the delay, St-Laurent borough mayor Alan DeSousa, an opposition councillor, said he’s surprised that the city broke its promise.

“I’m a little bit stunned (to learn this),” DeSousa said. “At no point in time were we ever advised of this. We took it in good faith that the commitment made by the administration (in September) would be held. To find out three months later that the promise to go to tender was not honoured is just stunning.

“It shows the administration is doing everything possible not to advance on Cavendish, even when they have made commitments. Clearly, they are not following through on their actions.”

The delay in issuing the call for tenders is related to the city’s precarious financial position, said the city’s point person on mobility issues.

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Sophie Mauzerolle, the executive committee member for mobility, said in a phone interview Tuesday that the call for tenders was delayed because of budgetary issues, as the city had to reduce its expenses at the end of the year in order to avoid going into deficit.

“The project has also been delayed because of budgetary reasons,” she said. “We wanted a coherent development that would be better integrated with public transit and other aspects. With the budgetary context of the city, there was a bit of a delay in awarding of contracts, but it’s a question of availability of finances in the context of 2023, and it should be advancing as foreseen after the holiday period.”

She said the call for tenders for an environmental assessment study has been already prepared.

“But we were unfortunately just not able to issue it (in the budgetary context),” she said. “It should be done in the beginning of next year.”

DeSousa said he’s surprised by the excuse that there was a budgetary issue, as millions have been earmarked for the project over the last few years. The city only announced it would freeze spending on some new projects in mid-October. Cavendish should not have been affected by the budgetary restrictions, he said.

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Côte-St-Luc city councillor Dida Berku said she’s concerned the city is using funds earmarked for the Cavendish project to study the REV project.

Malouf said he would like a financial audit done of all the money that has been earmarked.

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“Since 2015, we’ve had $242 million in capital budget and $12 million in the operating budget,” Malouf said. “Where has that money gone? We have asked, but we haven’t received any answers. I’m concerned that we don’t have an accurate accountability.”

Gaudreault said the money to study the REV project will come from the budgetary envelope for REV projects.

The impact assessment is expected to take several months, and after that the BAPE can do its work and issue a report — a process that takes about a year. With a BAPE hearing in 2023, the projected date to begin construction on the extension was 2027. It will now probably be at least 2028 before any work can begin.

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