Site of fatal NDG hit-and-run has seen 62 accidents in last five years: borough

An NDG intersection where an 84-year-old woman died in a hit-and-run last week has seen 62 accidents in the last five years alone, 20 of them serious enough to end in hospitalization or death.

Now, the corner will get one safety change, but borough leaders say it isn’t nearly enough in the long term.

The corner of de Maisonneuve and Decarie will have the timing of its traffic lights changed next fall, giving pedestrians more time to cross.

“It’s urgent to act,” wrote borough mayor Sue Montgomery in a blunt letter to Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante on Wednesday.

“I enthusiastically welcome the plan to re-evaluate certain traffic lights,” she wrote. “However, we need more than an adjustment to the traffic lights. We need a complete reorganization of the intersection.”

In any case, the change to the traffic lights has been in the works for a couple of years, said Annalisa Harris, the chief of staff to elected officials of the Cote-des-Neiges-NDG borough.

It’s part of a bigger project by the city to lengthen traffic lights at many intersections across the city.

EIGHT YEARS, THREE PLANS

Engineers have long agreed that changes need to be made at this particular intersection, said Harris. The problem is that that decision-making process has stretched out for eight years.

“It's a five-way intersection,” Harris explained. “You’re near the hospital, so there are a lot of ambulances.” It’s near Vendome metro and therefore on several bus routes. 

One of the city’s major bike arteries, on de Maisonneuve, also runs through it. 

Added to that, “the whole intersection is on an incline,” Harris said.

“Everyone agrees it’s a dangerous intersection. The question is, what is the solution?”

Two people have died there just in the last year, both of them elderly pedestrians. But that doesn’t nearly capture the scope of the problem.

There have been “quite a few bike accidents,” as well as “quite a number of serious injuries” from accidents only involving two cars, with no pedestrians or cyclists, said Harris.

“From my perspective,” she said, “we talk about the pedestrian accidents because pedestrian accidents are the most deadly.”

A technical study that was done from 2012 to 2019 came up with three proposals, one of which involved rerouting the bike path away from de Maisonneuve for a few blocks. 

One idea involved creating a median on Decarie. A big component of any solution was also to change the slope of the intersection, which Harris said is important to helping the elderly cross safely.

All in all, a final plan hadn’t been picked, but the cost estimate was $8.8 million—money that was expected to be in the city’s budget this year, but which disappeared from it, Harris said.

The borough must rely on the city to manage and fund the project, since the City of Montreal is responsible for major arteries, including de Maisonneuve and Decarie, while the borough is responsible for smaller streets.

“It’s frustrating that we spent all this money on a technical study, and we’ve studied the problem for seven years, but we don't have the money to implement the solution,” said Harris.

One of Montgomery’s political opponents said it’s clear more needs to be done, even if he doesn’t agree with Montgomery’s preferred engineering option.

“The change I want to see is the bicycle and pedestrian bridge,” said city councillor Peter McQueen.

He said there is likely a bigger reason behind the long delay—when the Turcot work was first planned, under a previous city administration, any changes around key arteries were likely put on hold to ensure that traffic would flow as freely as possible amid all the other changes.

“Backing up the traffic in the intersection during the Turcot work... would have backed up the buses,” he said.

The woman who died last week was known in the Italian community, he said. In her letter to Plante, Montgomery said her name was Anna Zanca.

Montreal police said Thursday night that they haven’t located the driver of the truck that hit and killed Zanca. They had described it as a red pickup truck.

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