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Montreal Metro: Drapeau's dream

They could zoom through underground tunnels at high speeds, transporting passengers to their destinations comfortably and efficiently. Canada's two new subways were considered marvellous feats of modern engineering in the 1950s and '60s. As the decades passed, Toronto's subway and Montreal's metro became more than just technological marvels — they were also places for people to meet, musicians to perform and artists to display their work.

"Ladies and gentlemen, today is a great day for Montreal," says Jean Drapeau, mayor of the rapidly growing city. The construction of Montreal's new metro system begins today, and Drapeau is bursting with pride. He's been pushing for an underground transit system to be built for years. This isn't just a symbolic ceremony, the mayor says in his speech -- it's "a real start on the Montreal subway." 
• Like Toronto, Montreal had been discussing a subway system since the early 20th century. In 1910, for example, the Montreal Central Terminal Company proposed a double-track underground rail system that would run beneath the St. Lawrence Seaway, leading to a downtown station from which subway lines would radiate east, west and north. But thanks to two world wars, the Great Depression and bouts of municipal debt, plans for a subway system were continually put on the back burner.

• Jean Drapeau was mayor of Montreal from 1954 to 1957 and from 1960 to 1986.
• When Montrealers re-elected Drapeau in 1960, the construction of an underground commuter system was one of his major campaign promises. So in 1961 the city released the initial plans for a metro network composed of three lines.

• The early proposal called for two main underground lines -- Line 1: Crémazie to Place-D'Armes and Line 2: Atwater to Frontenac stations -- as well as a third above-ground line consisting of 15 stations running northbound through the Mount-Royal tunnel and ending at Cartierville.

• The City began construction on the metro on May 23, 1962.
• The announcement of Expo 67 in late 1962 served to speed up the construction process -- the metro had to be up and running well in advance of Expo's opening day, which was April 27, 1967.

• The announcement of Expo 67 also led to changes in the original metro plans. To accommodate the event, Line 2 was extended north and a couple of new stations were added in the west. The city also added a whole new line (called Line 4) to the initial plan, between Berri-De-Montigny and Longueuil, and cancelled plans for the above-ground third line. This is why the numbers jump from Line 2 to Line 4 -- Line 3 was never built.
Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio News Special
Broadcast Date: May 23, 1962
Guest(s): Jean Drapeau
Duration: 1:54

Last updated: May 1, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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