Montreal’s Metro system is about to get its biggest and most expensive upgrade since the Laval extension.
The STM and the provincial government announced today the extension of the blue line east, to St-Leonard and Anjou.
Five more stops are expected to be added to the Metro line, likely near boulevards Viau, Pie-IX, Lacordaire and Langelier, with a terminal in Anjou.
It isn’t the first time an extension of the blue line has been discussed.
The project has been studied for years, along with other possible Metro line extension scenarios.
In 2009, then-Quebec premier Jean Charest announced a similar plan to extend the blue line six kilometres east from St-Michel, currently the line’s easternmost terminal.
The five-kilometre extension of the orange line to Laval was announced in 1998 and completed in 2007 at a cost of $745-million — about $150 million per kilometre.
At the announcement today, ministers Jean-Francois Lisée and Sylvain Gaudreault said this extension would cost between $250-300 million per kilometre.
How long will it take?
The first step the Quebec government will take is to set up a $38.8-million project planning office. It has a two-year mandate.
Quebec Transport Minister Gaudreault said the goal was to have a fully functional blue line by the early part of the 2020s.
Shortly after that, he said, work would begin on an extension of the yellow line, which currently ends at Longueuil on the South Shore.
Education Minister Marie Malavoy, who is also the minister responsible for the Montérégie region, said she was very pleased with the announcement of the yellow line extension.
"For the South Shore, it's excellent news," she said.
"It's a region that is full of development," Malavoy continued.
Metro extension important for economic development
Paul Micheletti, the owner of a business on Jean-Talon Street East and the president of the Jean-Talon East Commercial Development Committee, said he’s cautiously optimistic about the announcement.
“We’re excited,” he told Daybreak this morning. “At the same time, we’re realistic it’s not going to be done tomorrow morning.”
“Am I going to be in a wheelchair by the time it happens? I’m not sure,” he continued.
He said extending the Metro eastward to Anjou would help alleviate traffic on the Metropolitan and would help improve the economy by making it easier for people to move from west to east.
“If you want to develop the east and make it feasible for people to move around easily, I think the Metro is very important,” Micheletti said.
At today's announcement, Gaudreault agreed, saying it would help bring business to stores and restaurants in the eastern part of the island.
Extending the blue line would also lead to more land development for housing, he said.
Metro to West Island won’t happen for a while
Ed Janiszewski, the mayor of Dollard-des-Ormeaux and a member of the STM’s board of directors, said the imminent extension of the blue line is not a matter of if, but when.
“Twenty years down the road, if we don’t build it, we’ll be sorry, because the costs will escalate,” he said.
Janiszewski said the blue line project is the most pressing extension of Montreal’s Metro system, but told Daybreak he wished the STM and the provincial government would move faster on extending service to the West Island.
He said because of the presence of Highway 40, there would be no one Metro line that could be extended to accommodate the entire West Island.
“You’d need a big loop to serve the whole West Island,” Janiszewski said.
He said the best option would be to change the Metro's wheels from rubber to steel, so that the metro could go outside as well.
“This is doable and it’s the only way we’ll ever get to see a Metro in the West Island in the next 20 or 30 years,” he said.
In 2010, the STM rejected a proposal from a Chinese company to build new Metro cars with steel wheels.