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Earlier this spring Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, left, and Quebec Premier Jean Charest, right, inaugurated three new subway stations serving Laval. ((Peter McCabe/Canadian Press))

The City of Montreal has released its ambitious $8 billion public transit plan to overhaul the island’s metro train and bus network over the next two decades which includes streetcar routes and possible bridge and highway tolls.

Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay said the plan — the first of its kind for the city — focuses on encouraging sustainable development and public transit use to limit the number of cars on city roads and highways and contain greenhouse gas emissions.

"Today we are making a break with an outdated method for transporting people and goods, and [we’re] launching a new way of thinking," he said at a press conference Thursday morning.

The plan includes measures to increase public transit ridership by introducing streetcar tracks on several of Montreal’s busiest streets, including Mont Royal and Parc Avenue, Côte-des-Neiges Street.

The city also proposes introducing tolls on some Montreal-South Shore bridgesto generate revenue to pay for the expansion plan.

Public consultations will be held on the possibility of introducing tolls. The last toll in Montreal — on the South Shore-bound Champlain Bridge — was phased out in 1984.

City officials said air pollution and congestion is hindering Montreal’s prosperity and affects the quality of life.

Traffic congestion alone "causes economic losses of $800,000 to one million dollars a year" said André Lavallée, Montreal’s executive committee member responsible for public transit and urban development.

"These realities should convince us that we need to radically modify our collective choices," he said Thursday.

The plan also proposes further expanding Montreal’s subway lines. Three new stations in Laval, north of the city, opened to the public earlier this spring.

A rail shuttle is also in the works to connect the downtown core to the Montreal Trudeau International Airport. Several reserved bus lanes will be added to north-south streets including Papineau Street andPie IX Boulevard.

Montreal’s bicycle path network will be extended as well — the city plans to double the current 380 kilometres of bicycle paths in the next seven years, and will add more bike parking.

Montreal will lobby Quebec for greater revenue-generating powers in order to pay for the public transit expansion, Lavallée said.

City council will vote on the plan next fall.