Province won't fund Quebec City's $3.3B tramway unless changes are made

First came a withering report from Quebec's environmental review board, now the province says it will not greenlight the much-ballyhooed tramway line in the Vieille Capitale 'as currently proposed.'

Transport Minister François Bonnardel says Quebec will not approve the project 'as currently presented'

Quebec Transport Minister François Bonnardel says the province is withdrawing its support for Quebec City's proposed tramway network until major changes are made. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

Transport Minister François Bonnardel is withdrawing the government's support for Quebec City's proposed tramway network, which he said won't go ahead unless it is reconfigured to better serve the suburbs.

The announcement from Bonnardel is the second set-back in as many days for the 22-kilometre surface transit network that is the centrepiece of Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume's political legacy.

It comes on the heels of a harshly critical report from Quebec's environmental review board (BAPE), which questioned the very decision to go with a tram system at all, rather than a subway or light-rail. The BAPE also criticized the proposed network map, saying it doesn't adequately serve outlying areas of the city.

As it happens, that's Bonnardel's main critique as well.

"The government will not approve this project, as currently proposed, if there isn't a refinement, an improvement of the project in terms of serving Quebec City's suburbs," he told a news conference at the National Assembly.

He also said the province remains committed to a major public transit infrastructure project for Quebec City, just not the one Labeaume's administration has put forward.

"The route itself will definitely be discussed and revised," said Bonnardel, who added he hopes to meet with Labeaume and his team in the coming days.

Labeaume has spent the bulk of the last decade trying to get the project off the ground, and panned the BAPE's assessment. Radio-Canada reported Labeaume declined to comment on Bonnardel's news conference.

The federal government, which is also involved in financing the project, says it still stands behind the project Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos, the MP for Quebec, said "we continue to believe this project is both necessary and relevant. That said, we take note of the BAPE report and will take all the necessary time to analyze it and discuss with our partners."

The most recent target for a completion date is 2026, but the environmental review and Bonnardel's announcement cast fresh doubts on that timeline. 

Last week, the city announced it is delaying the start of the initial public tendering process to choose the consortium that will design, build and manage the project.

with files from Sean Gordon


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