Montreal

Cost of Montreal's light-rail train project rises by $500M

The cost of a long-awaited Montreal light-rail commuter train line is going up by half a billion dollars.

Construction of 67-km line, slated to start in the fall, is now expected to cost $6B

Michael Sabia, the head of the Caisse de Depot, says costs went up because new elements were added to the LRT project, such as 3 new stations in Montreal. (CBC)

The cost of a long-awaited Montreal light-rail commuter train line is going up by half a billion dollars.

CDPQ Infra, the subsidiary of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec overseeing the project, presented an update Tuesday on the work done so far.

The project, which would link downtown Montreal with the South Shore and West Island, was initially pegged at $5.5 billion. Now it's at $6 billion.
The proposed light-trail transit system (LRT) would connect the South Shore to downtown Montreal, the airport, and the West Island. (Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec)

Quebec's pension fund, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, is funding the project and has committed $3 billion to building the 67-kilometre light-rail transit system (LRT).

Michael Sabia, the head of the Caisse de Depot, said he isn't worried about costs getting out of hand.

"It's deliberate decision-making. It's not costs just rising out of neglect or mismanagement — not at all," Sabia said.

Those decisions include adding three new stations in Montreal and adding more cars to take the pressure off the Metro's Orange line.

Sabia doesn't believe the heftier price tag will affect ongoing funding negotiations with the federal government.

A good investment, environmental group says

Environmental group Équiterre considers the additional costs to be a good investment.

"There's been a lack of investment in public transportation for years, so to see money being put into transportation for a project that has great impacts, we see it in a positive light," said Colleen Thorpe, Équiterre's director of education programs.

Deal with agricultural groups

The groups says it's also pleased an agreement was struck to limit urban sprawl and protect farmland around the site of the South Shore station.

The consortium behind Montreal's planned light rail project announced an agreement with local agricultural groups and municipalities to promote the use of agricultural land.

CDPQ Infra said the partnership will mean the creation of an agricultural land trust and, eventually, a park aimed at promoting the use of agricultural land.

"Through this agreement, we are laying the groundwork for a unique initiative to promote the use of the agricultural land located around the South Shore terminal station," said Macky Tall, president of CDPQ Infra.

The consortium has been criticized by some environmental groups for failing to protect agricultural land.

The first trains are expected to run by the end of 2020.

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