After many stalled attempts over the last 80 years, the city of Montreal once again appears to be taking steps to make the extension of Cavendish Blvd. a reality.
The extension of the roadway to link Côte-St-Luc to St-Laurent has been talked about since the 1940s, but a new housing development could provide an impetus to complete it.
On Monday, the city sent out a public notice that Finance Minister Carlos Leitão would hold a news conference that afternoon at City Hall with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough mayor Russell Copeman about the land formerly occupied by the Blue Bonnets horse racing track (later called the Hippodrome). However, as is so often the case with the Cavendish extension, the news conference itself was postponed to another date, as Coderre was testifying before the Chamberland Commission looking into police spying into journalists and his testimony took longer than expected.
Snowdon councillor Marvin Rotrand said the city has been waiting since 2012 for the province to cede the land so it could build a project with at least 5,000 housing units on the 43.5-hectare property.
“The development of the Hippodrome site is part of the city’s plan to develop near heavy transit, and keep people from leaving the island for the suburbs,” Rotrand said.
Rotrand said because the area around Jean-Talon St. at Décarie Blvd is already heavily congested, the extension of Cavendish Blvd. is needed in order not to add more strain to the existing road network.
Rotrand expects a deal with the province to be announced shortly so it can come to a vote at the coming June city council meeting.
While the city and the province came to an agreement on ceding the land in 2012, the file has stalled, said Rotrand, who speculated it was because both levels of government had to iron out terms on the Cavendish extension.
“Part of the deal (with the province to cede the land) was that the city fund part of the Cavendish extension, but while it was put into the city’s capital budget, we never got matching funds from the province,” Rotrand said.
Also on Monday, the city of Côte-St-Luc planned a town hall meeting to answer the public’s questions about the project.
“The Cavendish extension is closer to reality now than ever before,” Côte-St-Luc city councillor Mike Cohen told the Montreal Gazette on Monday. “Once the city (of Montreal gets) that land, the extension will happen sooner than people think. It won’t be a pipe dream anymore.”
Cohen said progress has been made since Coderre announced his intention to go ahead with the project during the last election.
The city has been negotiating with the CN and CP railway companies to build overpasses over the tracks built along the proposed route. Cohen said those negotiations are going well, and he pointed out that the agglomeration council recently set aside $220,000 to conduct a feasibility of the extension.
Proposed for several decades by the Town of Mount Royal, the city of Montreal, and St-Laurent, the extension was held up because the city of Côte-St-Luc didn’t want to give access to thousands of cars to use it as an alternative to the Décarie Expressway.
However, more recent councils have seen the merit in extending the urban boulevard. In 2004, Robert Libman, who was then mayor of a merged Côte-St-Luc, got behind a project by the city to build an indirect link. It would have both ends of Cavendish extended to Royalmount Ave. on the border of Town of Mount Royal and Montreal. Cars would be diverted to the east-west Royalmount to continue their path north or south.
Cohen said Côte-St-Luc now sees an extended Cavendish as an essential link to the road network. It would allow residents to better access the central and western parts of the island, bring them closer to Namur métro station, and serve as a much-needed evacuation route for Côte-St-Luc, which is bordered by train tracks.
Montreal sees Cavendish as a gateway to economic development, as the new access road would be a boon for a $1.7-billion mega mall that developer Carbonleo hopes to build in T.M.R., near the Décarie Circle.
But there is still political opposition to the project. Jeremy Searle, the independent councillor for the Loyola district has said the project would add congestion, and essentially turn Cavendish into a highway.
Peter McQueen, the Project Montréal councillor for the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce sector, said he also fears congestion, but added the route could harm the local economy by diluting traffic from commercial arteries like Monkland Ave. and Queen Mary Rd.
He said the city should also try to add housing without adding cars.
“The need for Cavendish shows the fact the city wants to plan a fairly suburban-type development, similar to Bois-Franc in St-Laurent,” he said, adding that the project should be more oriented towards transit to the métro.
Rotrand countered that the Cavendish extension will reduce the number of cars using through traffic on the streets of Snowdon, because people from Côte-St-Luc, Hampstead and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce now drive through that neighbourhood to get to Décarie. He said the city can control for speed and congestion, by banning cars, or installing traffic lights, stop signs or other traffic-calming measures.