Griffintown residents worry REM’s ‘intolerable’ noise will drag on through winter

CDPQ-Infra, which owns and operates the REM, held the second of three information sessions to outline the measures to be taken to reduce the noise caused by the train. The first session was held Tuesday in Pointe-St-Charles, while a meeting on Thursday will be in Nuns’ Island at 6:30 pm

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“I can’t sleep, even with the windows closed, double anti-noise blinds and two pairs of earplugs. I can’t sleep at all,” said Sonia Poulet, who lives on the 10th storey of a high-rise on Ann St. “It’s intolerable.”

Other residents reported that they can’t make phone calls with the windows open because of the noise and that they have to watch television with subtitles.

Residents were given a breakdown of the measures planned to reduce the noise. They include grinding down the tracks to reduce wheel noise and installing noise dampeners, which are large blocks of rubber affixed to the tracks. The REM will close at 10 pm on certain days in November and December to perform the work. Officials believe they can reduce the noise by between threefold and tenfold.

Residents of the area between Central Station and the de la Commune Bridge, near the New City Gas building, learned that the work on their part of the tracks will take longer than the rest of the network. That’s because that segment of track has an extra rail to prevent the trains from rolling over.

“This is more complicated,” said Philippe Batani, the vice-president of public affairs for CDPQ-Infra. “We have to take those rails out, install the dampeners, and then put the rails back in. This is a longer operation that will be done as quickly as possible, after we install the dampeners elsewhere, and the timetable will depend on the weather.”

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Batani explained that the work can’t be done during the winter months, for safety reasons.

Poulet said she was disheartened to hear this because she lives in the affected area and doesn’t want to wait until next spring to get some relief. She believes it will take planners a year or more to settle the issue.

She was also disappointed with the information that was presented by the REM directors, as they couldn’t say for certain that the noise level would cease to be a problem.

“I would like to know what level of sound they are hoping to target, and they weren’t able to tell me that,” Poulet said.

Anne Bélanger, who lives on de l’Inspecteur St., said she, too, was surprised with the news about the her sector.

“I thought they would at least be able to tell us when they were going to do the work,” she said. She said she is woken up occasionally in the morning when the first trains roll by around 5:20 am

Directors said they will continue to monitor the situation even after the work is done, and if the noise level doesn’t drop significantly, they will return to put other measures in place.

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Bélanger is hopeful the proposed measures will have an impact.

“I think they are taking this problem to heart and that they want to resolve it, but I don’t think they are yet able to clearly say that it will work well,” she said.

Among the REM officials who spoke at the meeting, Mario Beausoleil, CDPQ-Infra’s director of operations and maintenance, said teams will continue to grind down the rails throughout the network, and ensure that noise from the tracks isn’t a problem when the next two branches (toward Deux-Montagnes and Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue) come online. Those branches of the REM are slated to begin service by the end of next year. The branch heading to the airport won’t be operational before 2027.

Inaugurated on July 31, the REM is Montreal’s first new public transit network since the metro in 1966. When completed, the $7.95-billion network will span 68 kilometers and serve 26 stations in the region.

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