Laval subway ceremony marred by protest, death

The inauguration of Laval's new metro stations was delayed Thursday after unionized workers staged a protest and an employee died of a heart attack.

The long-awaited inauguration of three new subway stations in Laval was delayed Thursday morning after unionized workers staged a protest and an employee died of a heart attack.

Dignitaries, including Quebec Premier Jean Charest, Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay and Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, were forced to wait in a subway train car scheduled to pull into the new Montmorency stationafter a metro employee supervising the platform had a heart attack and died on the scene.

At the same time,blue-collar workerscrowded the metro station entrance,yelling and waving placards to protest a lack of progress in contract talks with the city.

The first metro train finally pulled into the station with Charest, Tremblay and Vaillancourt on board in the conductor booth.

Laval's three new stations— De La Concorde and Cartieras well as Montmorency — will be open to the public on Saturday and public transit will be freeon the weekend to mark the occasion.

The subway system's orange line expansion cost $745 million and took nine years to complete after the Parti Québécois promised the stations in 1998.

At the time, the government said the renovations would cost $179 million, but the price tag ballooned before any ground was broken, reaching $378 million in June 2000.

Construction started in 2002 and wrapped up in early 2007, for the final cost of $150 million per kilometre.

Transit officials said the project's initial cost was underestimated because the first blueprints for the expansion were incomplete and failed to include 1.5 kilometres of new rail line.

Special equipment neededduring construction because of theground's composition also drove up the final cost.

Public transit officials estimate as many as 50,000 people will use the Laval stops on a daily basis, which will take cars off commuter roads and highways.