While understanding the difficult context in which CDPQ Infra finds itself, residents of the northwestern Montreal metropolitan area say they are upset by the new relocation of several sections of the Réseau Express Métropolitain (REM), including the Downtown, West and North branches are light of the world before the end of 2024.
Updated at 12:13 AM
“I’m very disappointed. And I hope that if the REM works, I can still walk. Because we count on it a lot here,” says Jean-Pierre Couture, a resident of the Laval Islands, where a station has been under construction for a few months .
CDPQ Infra announced on Monday that delivery of 18 REM stations in the inner city, west of the island and northern crown had to be postponed again. We will have to wait until late 2024 as the site is still badly affected by the July 2020 discovery of century-old explosives in the Mount Royal Tunnel. The opening of the South Shore branch is maintained for fall 2022, however, for the connection of the airport to the city center, we hope to “confirm the opening date later this fall”.
In order to maintain the opening of the Deux-Montagnes and Anse-à-l’Orme antennas in 2024, CDPQ Infra intends to “reverse” the order of its tests by having the tests carried out by Saint-Eustache and not by Brossard. Then it will be possible to bypass the Mount Royal tunnel and not delay the tests. Otherwise, the Deux-Montagnes branch would have had to wait until 2026.
Mr. Couture says he’s “conscious of the good fortune” of living in a neighborhood served by the REM and doesn’t hide the fact that he’s growing impatient.
It will be amazing when it works.
Jean-Pierre Couture, resident of the Laval Islands
But now, “Some days, 100 12-wheel trucks can drive by in front of my house; we cannot enjoy our country”.
“It’s hard for morale”
Not far away, Danielle Bélanger and her husband Pierre Landriault are also looking forward to 2024. “With the construction site, we can no longer really go to the city center, except by car. It’s tough on morale, it’s not easy,” says Mme Bélanger, who would find it “exaggerated” to have to push back again. “Before, I worked in the city center and it went very well. There we hope to be able to go to Bois-Franc soon to go to the Côte-Vertu and then to the city center. It would be a lesser evil,” adds Mr. Landriault.
Réjean Gravel tries to remain optimistic. “Of course it’s a pity, but at the same time I can understand that explosives in a tunnel change the way you work. You can’t make omelettes without breaking eggs,” he says, but regrets that the town in his neighborhood missed an opportunity. During the work, an area was opened up near the water supply, which he believes is deficient. “They could have used it to improve drainage in our neighborhood,” says Mr. Gravel.
We’re on a small island, we had a small train station, and everything was fine. Why do we need such a monster when there’s another one five or ten minutes from here? I’ve never understood it, and I like even less with the delays.
Iris, resident of the Laval Islands for almost 15 years
University of Montreal transportation planning expert Pierre Barrieau fears the impact of these new reports on public transit use. “We still had the opportunity here to convince people to board the REM after COVID-19. What I fear now is that a lot of people will adopt habits and after that it will be difficult to convince them,” he summarizes.
Explosives that changed everything
In November 2020, the Caisse de dépôt announced that the opening of the antenna over the Mount Royal Tunnel would be delayed by 18 months following an “unforeseen” detonation. The 30,000 drill holes required during the work therefore had to be drilled with a camera and a remote control system for safety reasons.
The “general dismantling conditions of the middle wall of the vault of the tunnel under [l’avenue] McGill College” are responsible for these extended deadlines in addition to the impact of COVID-19 on the workforce and offering, according to CDPQ Infra.
For citizens frustrated by these new delays, CDPQ Infra spokesman Jean-Vincent Lacroix suggests “taking a step forward”.
We are talking about a project that was first announced in 2016 and that we will ultimately deliver at the end of 2024. Less than 10 years to build 67 km of light rail, that’s a very good schedule in the world.
Jean-Vincent Lacroix, spokesman for CDPQ Infra
These new delays will inevitably lead to increased costs. The estimate of 6.9 billion is not met, but the final cost is unknown. On Monday, Transport Minister François Bonnardel pointed out that the situation of the Mount Royal tunnel was “very unpredictable”. “We would have liked to have had a delivery sooner, but the uncertainties and these situations prompt us to continue to support the Caisse,” he noted, assuring that Quebec will not hesitate to improve mitigation measures if necessary. “Currently, the services we offer do the job,” he said.