Residents increasingly angered by Ogilvy/DeCastelnau crossing
May turned into June, and June quickly turned into July, and although it has now been two months since the fence at Ogilvy and DeCastelnau went up, there has still been little progress in taking it down.
Frustration among residents is turning into anger and bewilderment that the passage at the Parc Exo station has still not opened. Many have taken to social media and even resorted to picketing the fence to protest its continued closure.
Citing safety concerns, the passage between Ogilvy and DeCastelnau was fenced off by Exo on May 13 and has been closed ever since. The tracks are owned by the Canadian Pacific and were ordered by a court to open the crossing to the public in 2019.
The fence has further contributed to the isolation of Park Extension and prevents many people from crossing the tracks safely to access either the metro or Jarry Park.
With the city center stating that it will be reopened in November, many residents are wondering what the reason is for the continued postponement and what it will take to get the passage open for the summer.
Ouvrons la voie – Make way
Since the path was closed in May, a Facebook group by the name Ouvrons la voie – Make way has gained 637 members, where people voice their disapproval and share strategies to pressure for reopening the passage.
Although she is not one of the groups’ founders, Béatrice Calmel is a member of the group and longtime Park Ex resident. She has been pushing for a permanent solution to the fence issue for several years now.
“It happened because we spoke about it between each other,” said Calmel of the group’s inception, adding that it was in their view the “best way to get to people.” Although she is happy with people’s involvement in the cause, she is very disappointed at the slow progress on the matter.
“The city keeps saying ‘we’re taking care of you, don’t worry, it’ll be done by November,’ but we know there are elections,” said Calmel, implying that the city was turning the crossing into an electoral issue. “We are once again trapped,” she added.
Passing the ball
Many concerned citizens, including Calmel, say that stakeholders including the city center, the Canadian Pacific and Exo keep passing the ball and denying responsibility.
“CP responded to me personally and said they couldn’t speak, while Exo said they were just the station’s user and were only respecting their contract with the CP,” stated Calmel of her interactions with the companies, who in her opinion are dodging blame.
Calmel hasn’t been able to view the contract between CP and Exo, nor has the group received an official response as to the exact requirements that would make the passage safe.
No construction by CP
Canadian Pacific has since said they were working towards an agreement with the city of Montreal and looking forward to resolving the issue.
“CP submitted to the city of Montreal a crossing agreement that would allow public access to be quickly established,” said Stacy Patenaude, a spokesperson for the railway company, adding she was citing the most up-to-date information.
“Once the agreement is in place, the crossing can be opened to the public,” she added, explaining that “no physical modifications to the crossing [were] required by CP to allow public access.”
The new statement opposes what many city officials have been saying, namely that they were waiting on the rail company to complete work to make the crossing safe.
At the June borough council meeting, city councillor and Vice President of the Executive Committee Sylvain Ouellet said that “the only reason it’s not being done at the speed we want is that the work will have to be completed by Canadian Pacific.”
Letter to the president
The Plante administration has nonetheless held the line that the issue remains a priority at the city and that they were working towards finding a solution.
Valérie Plante also sent a letter directly to Keith Creel, President of Canadian Pacific, asking that the company grant access to the passage as soon as possible.
Stating it had been closed by Exo based on Canadian Pacific standards, Plante asked Creel to work towards a temporary solution, like that of placing a security guard at the crossing to ensure the safety of pedestrians
“Families and seniors, are forced to make a long detour,” she wrote, adding residents used the crossing to access essential services.
With a seemingly confusing and convoluted process around the fence, people on Ouvrons la voie – Make way simply want to see their passage reopened.
“If Mme. Plante says this isn’t for political purposes or the next elections, she should explain it clearly and accept our demand for a temporary reopening for the summer,” said Calmel.
“I feel very, very limited, and I’m not the only one,” deplored Calmel, saying the closure was an affront to seniors, families and people with mobility issues. “It’s lamentable,” she concluded.