Montreal

CAQ doesn't intend to give up 3rd link for Quebec City, despite local grumbling

Quebec's premier-designate will find a few people standing in the way of his plans to begin construction of a third link across the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City, with the election of two Québec Solidaire candidates in the region.

Mayors on either side of St. Lawrence disagree on merits of multi-billion dollar project

Quebec Premier-designate Francois Legault said he intends to begin construction of a third bridge or a tunnel to connect Quebec City to Lévis in the next four years. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press )

Quebec's premier-designate will find a few people standing in the way of his plans to begin construction of a third link across the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City, with the election of two Québec Solidaire candidates in the region.

"We are going to respect our commitments," François Legault said during his first official media conference in his new role Tuesday, renewing a vow to begin construction of a third bridge or a tunnel between Quebec City and Lévis in his first mandate. 

The left-leaning Québec Solidaire campaigned on a platform of expanding public transit, denouncing Coalition Avenir Québec's plan for a third link.

Québec Solidaire's newly elected MNAs in the Quebec City region, Catherine Dorion and Sol Zanetti, are opposed to the construction of a third link connecting to the south shore. (Stéphane Lamontagne/Radio-Canada)

The election of Catherine Dorion in Taschereau and Sol Zanetti in Jean-Lesage was welcomed by Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume, who has also responded tepidly to the proposal.

"There's one thing we agree on, and that's public transportation. This means we agree on what is most important," he said.

Labeaume received a text message from QS co-spokesperson Manon Massé Tuesday, saying the party was sending in "deux Gaulois solidaires" — two strong-minded opponents to the blue wave that rolled across the region.

"I told her 'Under the circumstances, thank you very much,'" Labeaume said.

$3B tramway still a go

The tramway system would go underground in the steepest areas of the city and also include a rapid bus system to suburban neighbourhoods. (Submitted by city of Quebec)

The CAQ has made commitments to improve public transit in the region, promising to push forward with a new $3-billion tramway network for Quebec City — a project which already had the previous Liberal government's stamp of approval, along with $215 million to draft the final blueprints.

But that proposed network doesn't include a connection to Lévis, for now.

The CAQ also wants to widen and extend highways in Montreal and Quebec City, as part of its overall infrastructure plan.

"In the rural sector, it's not realistic to think we'll have public transportation," said Legault.

South shore enthusiastic about CAQ plan

Support for the third link is greater on Quebec City's south shore, where the CAQ elected MNAs in all six ridings, including in Lévis, the Beauce and Bellechasse.

Lévis Mayor Gilles Lehouillier was quick to celebrate the election of a CAQ government.

On Tuesday, he said the Liberals were in power for four years "and couldn't be bothered to present a plan during the campaign that made any sense."

"I think people in Quebec City and Lévis understood that the only party that had the determination to build a third link between the two shores was the CAQ," said Lehouillier, adding he is "convinced" the project will finally proceed.

According to the Ministry of Transport, around 154,000 vehicles travel on the Pont de Québec and the Pont Pierre-Laporte every day. (Radio-Canada)

Drop in traffic

Despite Lehouillier and the CAQ's enthusiasm for the third-link proposal, data shows traffic between Quebec City and the south shore has not increased in recent years.

In fact, it's gone down.

Ministry of Transport statistics from 2017 showed that the number of cars crossing over from Lévis every morning fell between 2011 and 2015, going down four per cent on the Québec Bridge and one per cent on the Pierre-Laporte Bridge.

Urban planning experts have also warned against adding new lanes to the road network, predicting it would only contribute to urban sprawl and flood the existing road network with more cars.

In the last provincial budget, the Liberals confirmed funding of $20.5 million to properly document traffic numbers and patterns, the impact of congestion on commuters and truckers, as well as all the possible solutions.

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