Beaconsfield sound wall still stalled
By Robert Frank
Mayor Maria Tutino got a pleasant surprise from Transport Quebec last month over its bid to build a berm that will shield residents south of Highway 20 from road roar.
“To our great surprise, they are fully prepared to allow us to go onto their land [to construct the sound barrier],” she reported during the May 12 town council meeting. “They are now sitting down with our people to see what can and cannot be done. It’s not a question of design. It’s more a safety question, vis-à-vis the highway.”
“We’re trying to move this along at a very rapid pace,” enthused town manager Nathalie Hadida. “We expected that it would take six months to meet [Transport Quebec’s specialist] and we were able to get a meeting with her within two days. They were really cooperative. They really want to give us all the support that they can give us here to have this project up and run with it.”
“That, for us, was extraordinarily good news, because we can’t expect movement from a provincial government body that quickly,” affirmed Mayor Tutino. “It really made Baie d’Urfé’s day.”
“We’ve had a lot citizens saying that they were concerned about noise; others saying that they were concerned about [potential] look of this project,” Hadida explained. “[Our approach] would blend the two together.”
As this week’s edition of The Suburban went to press, Hadida said in an interview that Baie d’Urfé town council was preparing to vote last night on a motion to engage an outside firm to evaluate the area and propose options that will comply with Transport Quebec requirements.
If approved, the berm would run alongside Highway 20 from Sunny Acres to Gray.
“Our idea would be to have preliminary plans to submit to citizens in an information session before starting the project,” Hadida reassured. “It will probably be held in the fall because many people will be away during the summer months, and we want to reach as many residents as possible.”
The alacrity with which Baie d’Urfé has moved to relieve their residents of road roar contrasts starkly with the glacial pace of progress in neighbouring Beaconsfield, where little has been done.
Transport Quebec’s own studies demonstrate that the sound pressure near Highway 20 is so high that it is considered a significant health risk. Nonetheless, years of complaints by Beaconsfield residents have largely fallen on deaf ears.
Under the administration of former mayor David Pollock, Beaconsfield amended its bylaws to permit piecemeal solutions by permitting residents to build their own sound wall on their own property at their own cost.
Following his 2013 election as Pollock’s successor, Mayor Georges Bourelle struck a committee to wrestle with the problem, which he appointed Beaconsfield’s leading sound wall advocate, Derrick Pounds to chair.
Pounds told The Suburban that after more than a year of work on the file, he is disappointed with city council’s lack of support for the sound wall, choosing instead to invest its political capital in an ill-fated plan to erect a 60-foot high electronic billboard.
“I’d like to see George become a hero and not to be remembered for the furore over the sign but solve the problem of this traffic noise that Beaconsfield hasn’t tackled,” he said in an interview. “Traffic noise affects 4,000 Beaconsfield residents.”
“Obviously Baie d’Urfé is paying for its sound wall itself,” Mayor Bourelle told The Suburban. “I don’t think we’re looking at a comparable cost of putting up a berm versus a sound wall at this point.”
“I don’t think at this point we’ve given up, but we’ll take it step by step,” he said in an interview. “I am willing, if council goes along with it, to go to the Nth degree until one way or another this issue is put to bed.”
Pounds questioned why Beaconsfield didn’t include a sound wall in its plan for to build a $20 million bike path along Elm by 2016.
“It would relieve residents on the north side of Highway 20 of train and highway noise,” he said.
“It’s not part of the project,” explained Mayor Bourelle.
Pounds insisted that his committee of sound wall advocates have resisted the temptation to become disillusioned.
“We will continue to persevere, but it will not produce results unless the city puts some effort into it,” he concluded. “So far, no politician will.”