Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Decarie Expressway: Why the NDG/CDN borough needs to sue Quebec for $235 million

  It's time for the borough of NDG/CDN to ring up the provincial transportation  ministry and ask for a payment of at least $235 million as compensation for land taken for the creation of the Decarie Expressway.   Here is why.
  Quebec expropriated about 235,000 square metres of land from the district to create the Decarie expressway in the early 1960s, leaving a car-filled crater where homes and businesses once flourished.
   However expropriation is defined as "the act of taking of privately owned property by a government to be used for the benefit of the public."
   In expropriation a government forces a vendor to sell land and then reassigns that land for some other public-oriented purpose.
   But in this case the government did not reassign land, they literally carted it off in trucks. 
   A significant part of the area - maybe 2.5 million cubic metres of land - was trucked off and it is not bringing any benefit to anybody wherever it went.
   The province has already paid homeowners who were forced to hand over their property.
   But the municipality got nothing. 
   Assuming the land is worth about $1,000 per square metre, the province should pay $235 million to the borough or perhaps the replacement price equivalent for bringing all that land back, which would be considerably more costly. 
   What would the borough then do with that money? Glad you asked. 
   The borough could issue a cheque of $1,424 to each of the 165,000 residents of the borough.
   Or else they could take that money and cover parts of the Decarie Expressway with a highway cap park. 
   Such parks over highways include the Freeway Park in Seattle, the five parks of the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston, the five-acre Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, and St. Louis's CityArchRiver at the Gateway Arch created last year at the cost of $380 million.
   A recent plan to cover abot 125 metres x 30 metres of the Ville Marie Expressway has been estimated at something between $200 million and $500 million. 
   The borough could kickstart the process of getting something built over the expressway by launching a lawsuit and seeing where the ball rolls from there. 


  1. Good luck with that.

    Covering the Decarie depressway has been bandied about ever since it was built (1964-67) and all of the half-hearted suggestions to do it have continually been ignored by every successive provincial and municipal government.

    Only massive protests on the streets by adjacent small businesses and local residents would get serious attention and, of course, this will never happen because the majority of those residents are either transients or low-income people living in aging buildings.

    In contrast, Toronto`s planned Spadina crosstown expressway was cancelled in 1971 due to ongoing protests by the nearby, relatively wealthy districts and Boston`s inner city
    Big Dig was also finally built following public pressure and it cost billions.

    The fact that the Montreal is instead going to cover parts of the 720 near the Convention Centre is further proof that nothing is going to be done about the Decarie depressway anytime soon.

    As far as our city planners are concerned, NDG residents can continue to suffer the noise and the fumes and if they don`t like it, they can move away--which they do. :-(

  2. For those who may be unaware, a tentative (and thankfully never realized!) plan for the Decarie Expressway would have had it swerve further west at Maplewood (later renamed Edouard-Montpetit) thereby requiring massive demolition of residences along Earnscliffe Avenue and others due south.

    See: Montreal Gazette for July 17, 1959, page 1 which includes a map and the associated article headed "Proposed North-South Expressway Would Cost $43 Million".

    I strongly suspect, however, that this plan was nothing more than a trial-balloon; a scare tactic created to subtly (!) infer that an alternate route incorporating further stretches along Decarie itself would likely receive less "not-in-my-backyard" opposition.

    The inclusion of the short tunnel between Duquette and N.D.G. Avenue was surely to prevent the demolition of both the church and the school on N.D.G. Avenue between Decarie and Girouard, although there may very well have been a "Plan B" to lengthen the tunnel further north, hopefully all the way to Royalmount--an idea local residents still dream about.


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