Long-awaited passage reopens with
After months of confusion, frustration and mobilization from residents on both sides of the fence, the crossing at Ogilvy and de Castelnau was finally reopened to the public last Thursday.
Since mid-May, the footpath was closed to cyclists and pedestrians when a fence was erected by the Canadian Pacific Railway citing safety concerns. This blocked a crucial crossing used by many Parc-Extension and Villeray residents, forcing them to take long and sometimes dangerous detours.
The crossing was recently rebuilt by the City of Montreal with new red-coloured asphalt, newly adapted signage and bicycle traffic calming baffles, for a total price of $509,000.
While the path is now open, many remain confused about the crossing’s status and its seemingly unfinished state. Much of the infrastructure promised in the plan is still missing, with cement bells and chains replacing permanent metal bicycle baffles.
Open but incomplete
The temporary fences that had blocked access to the crossing throughout its construction were removed on Dec. 9, finally allowing for the free flow of people between the two neighbourhoods after months of mobilization from residents.
“Work on the Ogilvy-Parc level crossing was undertaken in October 2021 and is now completed,” read a statement by City of Montreal spokesperson Guillaume Rivest. “An agreement between the Canadian Pacific (CP) and the City of Montreal will be ratified shortly,” continued the statement, adding that the crossing will be officially opened by Christmas.
The city underlined that the crossing would “promote mobility and ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists,” but did not say what specific safety measures the newly opened crossing provided.
When asked the same question, Canadian Pacific failed to respond to what these specific safety measures were. “CP is collaborating with the City of Montreal to allow public access at the Parc Station crossing while prioritizing safety,” said Canadian Pacific spokesperson Stacy Patenaude.
Material still missing
Although the City of Montreal stated that the project was now complete, borough Mayor Laurence Lavigne Lalonde said that there were still supply-chain issues for some of the materials needed to complete the level crossing.
“What we heard recently is that there have been supply issues for some items, including baffles for the bikes,” said Mayor Lavigne Lalonde at last months’ borough council meeting. “This delayed the opening of the passage,” she added.
Since the meeting, the City installed temporary barriers made of cement blocks and chains to act as bicycle baffles to slow down cyclists travelling over the tracks.
City spokesperson Hugo Bourgoin stated that these would be removed shortly. “The concrete bells have been temporarily installed at both approaches to the passage and will be removed during the installation of the bike baffles scheduled for this week,” said Bourgoin.
While most residents are happy to see the crossing finally reopened, many also feel the newly constructed infrastructure is not worth the $509,000 bill, especially considering the state the level-crossing is currently in.
“The ugliness is astounding,” said resident Clayton Bailey on the Facebook group Ouvrons la voie – Make way, which has amassed over 700 members in the past few months. “Many months of construction and $500,000 spent on the passage, it is impossible to imagine a more sloppy, more inhuman, ill-conceived and uglier result,” he added.
Another member of the citizen group, Christian de Massy, voiced similar criticism. “This story is so unreal,” said de Massy, adding that “it’s really funny actually, we are in an absurd bureaucratic saga. It defies common sense.”
“It was a relief not to have to walk down to Jean-Talon or up through the park late at night to get home from Villeray,” said Genevieve Heistek, but adding that the new crossing is “shockingly ugly and doesn’t seem in any way “safer” than it was before.”
The construction contract was granted to Salvex Inc, the only bidder, in early October, for the price of $509,914. The city said it would not be holding an event to mark the official opening of the passage.