Oriental REM | Quebec and Montreal take matters into their own hands, center removed

The REM de l’Est changes direction and will no longer pass through the city center. By declaring the project “lack of social acceptability”, Quebec and Montreal affirm that they are “taking the lead”. The subsidiary of the Caisse depot, CDPQ-Infra, has been excluded from the lawsuit.

Posted at 11:39am
Updated at 12:12 PM

Henri Ouellette-Vezina

Henri Ouellette-Vezina
The press

Maxime Bergeron

Maxime Bergeron
The press

“It changes the project a lot for the Caisse de dépôt, as they planned to invest 10 billion in the profitability of the project from the east to the city center. By removing the end of the city center they don’t want to go ahead with the project and I understand them,” Prime Minister François Legault explained on Monday, admitting that “the part of the city center, beyond Dickson Street, has no social acceptability”.

For him, however, the rest of the route will receive “a favorable reception” from the population. “For the rest, it’s not a matter of touching the track,” he said. “I want to be very clear: in the past all kinds of excuses have been used to delay projects. Me, the people who know me know that I don’t have much patience. And I want this project to happen as soon as possible,” insisted Mr Legault.

Mayor Valérie Plante was relieved by his side, saying that “the aerial part in the city center was a historical mistake that should be absolutely avoided”. “Today’s decision is brave and important because we are doing the right thing. We keep what works […] and what is less consensual, we set aside’, she summed up.

A transformed project

A “new project team” will therefore be created, with the Ministère des Transports, the City of Montreal, the Société de transport de Montréal and the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM). The 2029 timeline is subject to change, but the committee will need “some time” to figure that out. The new chairman of the ARTM, Patrick Savard, will be “very involved in the dossier”, according to François Legault, who insists that “changes will be made in the management of the ARTM if necessary”.

It is not yet known what impact this upheaval will have on the total cost of the project, which has so far been estimated at 10 billion. One thing is certain: the new group will strive to “better connections between the eastern REM and the metro lines” – the current project envisaged a connection to the green line at Assomption station – by improving the green line of the metro “to return to downtown.


IMAGE PROVIDED BY CDPQ INFRA

The REM de l’Est, as developed so far by de Caisse, has struggled to gain the support of the people of Montreal, particularly because of the imposing concrete structures planned over 15 miles.

The committee, meeting Monday afternoon, will also examine “more harmonious” development options in Mercier-Est. Finally, the extension of the Marie-Victorin route to Laval and the eastern part, towards Lanaudière, will be studied. Savings could therefore be made in the city center, but the connection to the metro and possible expansions could lead to an increase in the budget.

Monday, The press reported that Mr. Legault and Mr.me Plante would meet in the late morning to announce a new vision for the REM. Nevertheless, in a joint press release issued Monday, Quebec and Montreal boasted “the colossal work” carried out by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) to “build this immense public transport project”, adding that “the majority of the route of more than 30 km arouses the broad support of the citizens”.

An abandoned construction site

This means that the first images of the “much improved” Eastern REM, which were presented in early March, are now partly outdated. At the time, CDPQ Infra said it had “pushed” its architectural efforts to the max, but warned that “all stakeholders” will have to give their approval for the 10 billion network to see the light of day.

All of this is because the Eastern Metropolitan Express Network (REM), as developed so far by the Caisse, has struggled to gain the support of Montrealers, particularly because of the imposing concrete structures planned over 15 miles.

Do not forget that in February the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM) issued a damning opinion on the second phase of the automated train of CDPQ Infra, a subsidiary of the Caisse. The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) had also expressed much criticism in an internal analysis.

A month later, CDPQ Infra then announced that the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) public hearings scheduled for this spring would be postponed. The group declined to proceed without a clear stance from the city. Quebec had since entered into discussions with Valérie Plante about the ‘governance’ of the project. The mayor has been pushing for months that she wants to sit around the decision-making table to “be more actively involved” in its development, especially as the city would have to spend at least $1 billion on all kinds of amenities along the 32-kilometer route.

With Tommy Choinard

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