New design for Quebec City tramway makes way for larger sidewalks, more parks
Sainte-Foy and Saint-Roch get makeovers in new urban planning wish list
Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume says the latest changes to the city's future tramway project will help improve the quality of life in some of the city's busiest neighbourhoods.
The $3.3 billion tramway network will have a slightly different look than the one presented to citizens in 2018. The new design, released by the city on Wednesday, gives more room to urban parks and larger sidewalks for pedestrians, but also preserves car lanes.
The major difference lies in the two new tramway stations in Saint-Roch and Sainte-Foy. The latter will no longer be linked to the controversial high-rise building project, Le Phare, promoted by Groupe Dallaire, near the city's two bridges.
Labeaume said under the federal funding agreement, estimated at $1.2 billion, the city had to act independently from private promoters, and therefore decided to build a separate infrastructure project a few blocks east of Le Phare.
"There was a line that was kind of blurry, and we didn't want to cross it," Labeaume said. The new commuter station will be built parallel to rue de l'Église, and will make it easier for bus passengers coming in from Lévis to hop on Quebec City's tramways or buses, Labeaume said.
The tramway will then continue its route on Laurier Boulevard, to the east, or north onto Roland-Beaudin Avenue, near the Sainte-Foy farmers' market and the École Rochebelle High School.
The construction of the tramway in Sainte-Foy will not lead to the removal of any car lanes. By adding a central tramway lane on Laurier Boulevard, the project will free up the existing reserved bus lanes, which will be redirected to Hochelaga Boulevard.
Labeaume said he wants the tramway to complete the vision former mayor Jean-Paul L'Allier had for Saint-Roch.
Long considered a working class neighbourhood with higher crime rates than other parts of the city, L'Allier transformed Saint-Roch in the 1990s, starting with the removal of a roof over the commercial strip on rue Saint-Joseph.
His efforts led to a gradual economic revival of the sector that now houses several high-tech businesses like Ubisoft.
Labeaume said it was with this in mind that his administration decided to transform rue de la Couronne, reserving it for pedestrians and tramway cars only.
The Saint-Roch tramway station will be built beside across the the Victoria Park baseball stadium, east of Autoroute Laurentienne.
Labeaume said he personally decided on the location, further away from existing commercial buildings, because he wanted to incorporate an urban park to the project.
"I thought we needed some space that was greener, that would breathe, because we're in the middle of downtown here," said Labeaume.
De la Couronne runs north from downtown to the lower town. Motorists will instead be redirected to Dorchester, which will no longer be a one-way street.
The result, Labeaume hopes, with larger sidewalks and easier access to Jean-Paul L'Allier Park, will be that people will want to live and visit Saint-Roch.
"But we will be prudent to ensure there is not too much gentrification," said Labeaume, promising social housing projects in the area.
The water pipes under Dorchester, which are 60 years old, were already in need of major repairs, said Labeaume, arguing it was the right time to do this kind of work and that changes to the project's design would not go over budget.
Right time despite COVID-19 crisis
Quebec City is counting on the construction of the tramway to help relaunch the local economy.
Labeaume said the construction could create 19,000 jobs in the Quebec City region over the coming years, and could begin as soon as 2021 on Dorchester.
"This would be more than beneficial in the current context," said Labeaume.
Even if people keep their habits of working from home beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, Labeaume believes the tramway will be all the more relevant.
"I think we will be rethinking our way of working. But if you have a second car sitting in your driveway most of the week, the tramway will become all the more pertinent for many."
Labeaume said there would be no other major changes to the project, because the Ministry of Environment will be submitting the final version to Quebec's Environmental Review Board, the BAPE, tomorrow.
The ministry told Radio-Canada it could not confirm, nor deny, this information.