Money for West Quebec’s cycling trails

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Laurent Robillard-Cardinal

MRC PONTIAC &

Laurent Robillard-Cardinal

MRC PONTIAC &
PONTIAC – Quebec announced in early April that a dozen municipalities in MRC Pontiac and MRC Papineau will share $127,000 to maintain the Route verte’s infrastructure on their territory. Close to 90 km of bike paths in West Quebec will benefit from this investment, 85 km of which are part of the Cycloparc PPJ in the Pontiac. The municipalities of Mansfield and Clarendon received the biggest slice of the pie, with $20,000 each to upkeep their paths.
“We are supporting our municipalities which have built this asset with more than 5,000 kilometres of trails and a value of over $270 million. The Route verte is a pride for Quebecers, contributing to tourism and economic development,” declared Jacques Daoust, Minister of Transport.
Maybe too late?
The $127,000 is for the 2015-2016 financial period. “It is welcome news, but it’s a little late because our budgets are already adopted. I’m disappointed in the way they (the provincial government) proceeded; they cut our budget and then later announced new funds,” said Raymond Durocher, MRC Pontiac Warden. “In the past, we had a 50-50 partnership to keep up the Route verte, but they made us cut our Route verte budget by three-quarters. This year, the total budget (here) represents about $50,000. That’s minimal maintenance because that’s all we could afford – and then the province makes this announcement. We will applaud their announcement if we can roll over the funds for the 2017-2018-2019 budgets, but if we lose the funds, believe me, we will criticize them.”
Municipalities used to receive contributions through the Route verte maintenance program, but it was abolished by the Liberals in November, 2014. “That was a major turning point. Since then, there has been considerable public support for the Route verte by way of letters to the editors, municipal resolutions, and a petition,” commented Louis Carpentier, Planning Director for Route verte. “In the current budget, the government earmarked funds to maintain and improve Route verte in 2016-2017, but after the budget, they also announced $2 million for upkeeping Route verte. These funds are for 2015-2016, and are therefore retroactive from last year.”
As Carpentier explain-ed, the amounts will help municipalities who already have bike paths on their territory, but some will be forced to play catch-up since they did not receive funds when the Route verte maintenance program was abolished. “The funds this year will help municipalities upgrade their trails, since many municipalities lacked funds last year,” said Carpentier.
“The $2 million is a signal that Route verte is important. We’re very happy the government found extra funds to help regions,” added Carpentier, even though it will only cover part of the expenses of the Route verte.
The funding to municipalities comes in proportion to the length of the bike paths in each municipality. For example, the Municipality of Pontiac received $48 to maintain their 0.03 km of cycling path.
Widening Highway 148
Within months, crews should start tearing up Highway 148 between Maple and Terry Fox Roads, just west of Aylmer. “The project will take one year to complete. We don’t have a start date yet, but the project is not delayed,” a MTQ spokesperson told the Journal. “The goal is to improve road safety and refurbish its outdated drainage system.”
The cost, estimated by the MTQ at “between $5 and $10 million”, covers widening the road and shoulder to accommodate a Route verte cycling lane. Currently, there’s a break in the Route verte cycling network between Aylmer and Quyon.
“Currently the shoulder is not wide enough here to be considered a Route verte bike path,” explained Carpentier. Of the Route verte’s 5,300 km network, 40% is on paved shoulders or on designated roadways, while 60% is on off-road bike paths, like old railway tracks. Route verte paths must be on a paved
shoulder at least one metre wide.
The section between Breckenridge and Aylmer is one of the last sections of the Route verte under development in West Quebec; by widening the shoulder, there should be sufficient space for a proper corridor. “However, it will not be the same kind of path as in Aylmer, Hull, Gatineau or with Pontiac’s Cyclopark PPJ,” stated Carpentier.
Currently, parts of the Route verte between Aylmer and the Pontiac’s PPJ (an old rail line) travel along Highway 148 and some follow dirt roads, because the old rail line was given over to farmers by the Municipality of Pontiac.