For several years now, the Citizens Sound Wall Committee (CSWC), led by Derrick Pounds, has worked diligently to obtain a Sound Wall for the south side of Highway 20. Scientific testing has proven that the noise levels in that area are over 70 dBA’s* which is well above an acceptable threshold of 55 dBA’s as determined by the World Health Organization (W.H.O.). At 65 dBA’s, the MTQ has determined that mitigating action must be taken. It has also been well established that excessive noise has serious health consequences, such as: hearing impairment; interference with spoken communication; sleep disturbances; cardiovascular disturbances; impaired task performance; negative social behaviour, etc. In our city, there are thousands of citizens so affected. During the past four years we have worked with Mayor Georges Bourelle and our Municipal Council to try to secure a Sound Wall but we have had very limited results.
After the CSWC steadfastly lobbied the Ministry of Transport, the City of Beaconsfield received an exceptional offer September 3, 2015 whereby the Provincial Government would pay 75% of the estimated $20 million cost of a Sound Wall if the City of Beaconsfield would pay the remaining 25%. Then Minister of Transport Robert Poëti indicated that it was a one-time offer and urged Mayor Bourelle to accept it without delay. A petition was signed by 845 residents in Oct. 2015 that urged the City to accept the MTQ offer. Two years later, the offer has still not been accepted.
When the Leger and Leger survey was commissioned in the fall of 2015, we asked the City of Beaconsfield to contextualize the Sound Wall question by explaining to residents the impact of noise levels on its citizens and that the cost to citizens could be minimized. Neither was done. In the absence of clarifying information, many of those who took part in the survey did not understand the health implications and were apprehensive it would result in a large tax increase.
In the fall of 2015, the MTQ and City of Beaconsfield agreed to initiate an engineering study to determine structural and architectural components to the Sound Wall. The study was to take place early in 2016 but the contract has still yet to be awarded.
The CSWC also suggested that the City start a reserve fund to help pay the City’s share of the cost of the Sound Wall. This could eliminate or at least significantly reduce the tax implications to Beaconsfield residents. Mayor Bourelle declined to do so despite the fact that Beaconsfield has benefitted from a surplus of $10 million since 2013.
The CSWC is also alarmed that the City continues to allow residential dwellings to be built close to Highway 20 knowing that their occupants would add to the number of Beaconsfield residents subjected to excessive noise. Minister Poëti criticized the City for granting these permits.
Two MTQ studies * (in 1987 and 2010) concluded that a Sound Wall needed to be built on the south side of Highway 20 to mitigate the noise emanating from the highway. The City of Beaconsfield is in violation of Quebec’s Environment Quality Act in that it has not taken action to solve the issue and protect its citizens.
Beaconsfield needs its Mayor and Council to demonstrate effective leadership and firm commitment to complete the Sound Wall project. They have the responsibility to inform citizens about the excessive noise levels and associated health risks and ensure that the Sound Wall is built for their benefit. Suggesting that it is somehow optional is misleading and to leave it up to citizens to decide runs a high risk of resulting in a very divisive process.
This issue must be a top priority of the Mayor and Municipal Council elected Nov. 5, 2017.
Your vote is important November 5, 2017 (advance poll October 29, 2017)
Citizens Sound Wall Committee (CSWC) Derrick Pounds, Chairman