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Eastern REM | The committee of experts fears an “urban divide”

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CDPQ Infra stays the course. The REM de l’Est will be erected for the most part on concrete structures adorned with catenaries, with “noise walls” that can reach 4 m in height, a choice that worries the committee of experts mandated to ensure the architectural integration of the project.

In a report filed in recent days with the Government of Quebec, and obtained by The Pressthe members of this group have several reservations about the second phase of the Réseau express métropolitain (REM).

They believe that the light rail offered by the subsidiary of the Caisse de depot et placement du Québec has “the potential to create a fracture effect between the sectors located on either side of the route if a quality urban and architectural treatment n is not assured all along the route”.


IMAGE PROVIDED BY CDPQ INFRA

The East REM project

This 10 billion dollar network must connect the city center to the eastern tip and northeast of the island. The majority of the 32 kilometer route is planned on elevated structures.

Redevelopment of René-Lévesque Boulevard

The group of 15 experts commissioned by CDPQ Infra and Quebec to study the project would have deemed it “preferable” to dig a long tunnel downtown. Faced with the developer’s refusal, the committee enacted a series of “essential conditions” in order to allow successful integration of the aerial structure.

Among these: “the fundamental revision of the vocation and geometry of René-Lévesque Boulevard”.

The committee thus proposes a “significant withdrawal of the space dedicated to automobile transport” on this important artery, in order to create a wide pedestrian promenade and a cycle path. This promenade could even become “the flagship element of the downtown project” and extend over the entire distance of the REM de l’Est.

A vast exercise of “refining” the structure will however have to be carried out by the designers, we warn. Because despite the progress made in recent months, “there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve a satisfactory result, particularly in terms of the finesse of the design, the width of the deck, the general height, the integration of the veil, the catenaries and noise barriers”.

All concrete

According to our information, CDPQ Infra is still leaning at this stage for an entirely concrete structure, which could be white rather than gray. The steel option, which allows a lighter structure and greater spacing between the pillars, would have been ruled out.

The committee says it is “very concerned” about the quality of future developments if CDPQ Infra opts for “cast-in-place” concrete elements. The group is still campaigning for the use of steel, or at the very least precast concrete pillars.

The committee is also awaiting details regarding the noise barriers that could be erected between Saint-Urbain and Beaudry streets and climb up to 4 m above the REM deck.

Part of this veil would be “opaque”, it is said, but no presentation has yet been made to the members of the committee in this regard.

Particular care will have to be taken in the sector where the REM will come out of the ground, between the terminal station in the city center and the start of the aerial route, the committee also underlines. This “hopper”, which will be located near Saint-Urbain Street and René-Lévesque Boulevard, raises “strong concern” because of the risks of “urban fracture” it presents. Its design remains “to be refined”.

Catenaries and green line

Citizens were surprised by the massive appearance of the first phase of the REM, under construction in several areas of the city. The members of the committee want to avoid this type of architecture at all costs with the REM de l’Est, and their report mentions many fears about the appearance of the catenaries – the electrical supply network for the trains.

The group asks CDPQ Infra to install more discreet posts “and carefully crafted rather than the more generic models as was the case for the REM de l’Ouest”. The committee also wants measures to be taken now to allow the possible removal of catenaries “in the event that future technological advances allow it”.


PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, ARCHIVES LA PRESSE

REM catenaries on the South Shore

CDPQ Infra recently announced the relocation of part of the REM from the east of Sherbrooke Street to Dubuisson Street, further south, in response to numerous criticisms from area residents. If it “welcomes” this modification to the route, the committee of experts led by engineer Maud Cohen deplores the loss of connection with the green metro line that will result.

The group therefore asks CDPQ Infra to “find a solution” to re-establish a connection with the green line.

The committee also says it is “very concerned” about the way the REM de l’Est will fit into several heritage sites located along the route, such as Chinatown, Morgan Park and the area around the Molson brewery. He asks designers to pay “particular attention” to this.

15 meetings

The committee has met fifteen times since May 2021, often in the presence of teams from CDPQ Infra and the architectural firm Lemay. The document submitted to Quebec last week is a “progress” report, since several elements of the project remain to be refined, it is indicated.

The members insist on the fact that CDPQ Infra will have to develop its project “jointly” with all the players involved, including the City of Montreal and the Regional Metropolitan Transport Authority (ARTM). An “essential condition” for the success of the Eastern REM, it is emphasized.

The committee will submit a full report before the study of the project by the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) in the coming months.

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