New design for Quebec City tramway has wider 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 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 Wednesday, has more room for urban parks and wider sidewalks for pedestrians but also preserves car lanes.
The major difference lies in the design of two new tramway stations in Saint-Roch and Sainte-Foy. The Saint-Roch station in the lower town will no longer be linked to Groupe Dallaire's controversial high-rise building project, Le Phare, near the city's two bridges.
Labeaume said under the federal funding agreement, estimated at $1.2 billion, the city had to be independent of private promoters and therefore decided to build a separate station 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 tracks will run parallel to De l'Église Street, and the station's location will make it easier for bus passengers from Lévis to hop on a tramway or bus once they get to Quebec City, Labeaume said.
From there, the tramway route will go up Laurier Boulevard to the east or north onto Roland-Beaudin Avenue, near the Sainte-Foy farmers' market and Rochebelle high school.
No car lanes will disappear. By adding a central tramway lane on Laurier Boulevard, the project will free up the existing reserved bus lanes. Those bus lanes will be moved to nearby Hochelaga Boulevard.
Labeaume said the tramway will bring to life the vision that former mayor Jean-Paul L'Allier had for Saint-Roch.
In the 1990s, L'Allier began the process of transforming the working-class neighbourhood with a reputation for being rundown and crime-ridden, starting with the removal of a roof over the commercial strip on Saint-Joseph Street.
That effort led to a gradual economic revival of the sector that now houses several high-tech businesses such as Ubisoft.
Labeaume said it was with this in mind that his administration decided to transform De la Couronne Street, reserving it for pedestrians and tramway cars.
The Saint-Roch tramway station will be built across from the Victoria Park baseball stadium, east of the Laurentienne highway.
Labeaume said he decided on the location, further away from existing commercial buildings, personally because he wanted to incorporate an urban park into 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 Street runs south from the National Assembly to the lower town. Once the tramway opens, motorists will use Dorchester Street instead, which will no longer be a one-way street.
Labeaume is optimistic that wider sidewalks and easier access to Jean-Paul L'Allier Park will attract more residents and visitors to Saint-Roch.
"But we will be prudent to ensure there is not too much gentrification," said Labeaume, promising that social housing projects will be built in the district.
The 60-year-old water pipes under Dorchester are already in need of major repairs, said Labeaume, explaining they will be replaced as the tramway work is done. He said the changes to the project's design would not lead to the tramway going 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. It could begin as early as 2021, with work starting on Dorchester Street.
"This would be more than beneficial in the current context," said Labeaume.
Even if people continue to work from home in large numbers after the COVID-19 pandemic, Labeaume said, he believes the tramway project is more relevant than ever.
"I think we will be rethinking our way of working," said the mayor. "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 will be no other major changes to the project. He said the Ministry of Environment will be submitting the final version to Quebec's environmental review board, the BAPE, tomorrow, although the ministry will not confirm that.