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Coronavirus: Verdun to launch pilot project closing off parts of Wellington Street to traffic

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A pilot project being launched in Verdun to close Wellington Street to traffic aims to make shopping safer by giving pedestrians more space to respect social-distancing guidelines. Global's Brayden Jagger Haines reports. – May 8, 2020

The borough of Verdun has announced a new pilot project to close a section of a major commercial artery to traffic amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With stores set to re-open on May 25, the borough is hoping the new measure — developed with public health guidelines in mind — will make for safer shopping on Wellington Street.

Without cars on the road, there will be more space for pedestrians to keep a safe distance while shopping.

“We thought we could help people have a place where they can go out and be safe and keep their space, all the while helping local businesses,” said Verdun borough councillor Marie-Andrée Mauger.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — STM to provide masks to commuters as Montreal’s reopening looms

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Local merchants, like Lee’s Rustic Bakery, will be allowed to take advantage of the newly available street space by expanding their terrace.

“I’m very happy to have (it). It’s a really nice thing for a neighbourhood,” said Liana Settels-Lessard, the bakery’s co-owner. “But as a business, with all the logistics, it’s more complicated.”

Settels-Lessard worries about deliveries and how older customers will access her store.

“Being able to access is definitely a problem, also our suppliers with big trucks — it won’t be easy,” she said.

Merchants in the area are familiar with street closures for annual festivals, but Settels-Lessard said those closures usually last for a few days, not all summer.

READ MORE: Montreal public markets reopen with safety measures in place amid coronavirus pandemic

As for the borough, it says those festivals are what has helped them plan for what’s to come.

Mauger, however, admitted that some details, such as which part of the street will be closed and when, still need to be ironed out.

“We know it will be in the commercial zone but which intersections we don’t know yet, but it will happen in the next weeks,” she said.

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Then, there’s the issue of parking.

“There are more positive aspects to this pilot project than negatives, but parking is one thing that will be challenging for some people,” Mauger said.

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Some residents Global News spoke to appeared pleased with the idea.

“I think we are going to have fun, honestly, with the beach next to the street,” Verdun resident Guillaume Barbedette said. “It will be great.”

Fellow resident Lee Bond agreed.

“I think it’s great for the neighbourhood as long as there is north-south traffic, I think there won’t be any trouble.”

The project is expected to begin by the end of May and remain in place until September.

— With files from Annabelle Olivier

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