Montreal's Blue line extension facing major cost overruns, putting project's future in doubt

Municipal, provincial governments are considering all options as expropriation costs are squeezing the project's budget.

Project's original budget underestimated sky-high costs of land expropriation

A commuter stands on the platform as a Montreal Metro whips by.
The Blue line extension project is facing a billion dollars in unforeseen expropriation costs. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

The extension of the Montreal Metro's Blue line was supposed to cost $4.5 billion.

According to documents obtained by Radio-Canada, the updated price tag is estimated around $6 billion as sky-high expropriation costs put the future of the project in question.

While the original budget for the project included $340 million for expropriation of land, some unforeseen factors have increased that line item significantly. 

For example, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) revealed last month that expropriating Le Boulevard shopping mall in Saint-Léonard cost $115 million instead of the projected $50 million. 

The jump in the Montreal real estate market has also meant that many of the costs related to acquiring space for the extension were underestimated.

​Radio-Canada reports that according to STM estimates, the total cost of expropriation for the project is hovering at $1.2 billion.

Contributing to the cost overruns is the fact that the Blue line project is delayed and won't be complete by 2026.

The extension includes five new stations going from Saint-Michel to Anjou. (Radio-Canada)

It could be six to 20 months longer before service is up and running., and the estimated cost of that delay comes in at about $15 million per month, according to STM documents obtained by Radio-Canada. 

The Legault government has asked Montreal to take another look at the budget and try to come up with solutions.

While some cuts are already being made to trim the bottom line, including eliminating a plan for underground parking at the Anjou station, other solutions were suggested in a document created by the STM in November 2020.

In that document, the STM proposes reducing the number of escalators and elevators in order to save a little over $100 million.

City insists on 5 stations

One solution that has been rejected by the city is reducing the number of stations on the Blue line extension from five to four.

On Tuesday, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante told reporters that for her, sacrificing a station is out of the question.

"The Blue line is absolutely essential. Five stations are a must," she said.

Plante added that a committee of experts is putting their heads together to come up with alternatives. They are due to submit their recommendations for optimizing the project by June 23.

Meanwhile, Chantal Rouleau, the province's junior transport minister, told Radio-Canada that she's not ruling out any options.

"Our hope is that there will be five stations," she said. "There are scenarios that are being evaluated."

Rouleau emphasized that multiple ideas are being considered, but she admitted that an option which includes only four stations is being looked at.

"It's not that we want to cut, it's that we want to compare so we make the best decisions."

With files from Radio-Canada's Romain Schué


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