Mayors of Quebec City, Lévis welcome newest route for 3rd link: a tunnel linking cities' downtown cores
Province scraps route running east of Quebec City and Lévis, incorporates public transit into new plan
The mayors of Quebec City and Lévis say they both support the provincial government's new proposal for a tunnel linking their two cities' downtown cores, after the CAQ government decided it is scrapping the route announced last spring.
Quebec Transport Minister François Bonnardel said Thursday he welcomes the mayors' enthusiasm for the project.
Bonnardel had said last May that the best route for the CAQ's promised project would originate east of downtown Quebec City, with a tunnel burrowing below Île-d'Orléans.
Now the plan is for a nine-kilometre-long tunnel that would connect Highway 20 at Monseigneur-Bourget Street on the south shore and the Quebec City neighbourhood of Saint-Roch, at the baseball stadium, Stade Canac.
Lévis Mayor Gilles Lehouillier called the new plan "spectacular," and one that meets real needs by connecting the two downtown cores.
"I find this avant-garde and visionary," Lehouillier said.
Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume said with the new plan, there will be "net gains" for his city, especially compared to the previous option.
The proposed tunnel will include two driving lanes in each direction, as well as designated lanes for electric buses. The project, once complete, would have seven public transportation stops along the line.
Labeaume said he's glad to see the new plan incorporate public transportation.
Bonnardel said he intends to stick to the construction schedule originally announced, with shovels in the ground by 2022.
"When I see the enthusiasm from so many people, I am also enthusiastic about the new route," Bonnardel said. "We'll be working closely with the cities of Quebec and Lévis."
The province has not made public any findings on the impact of the revised route on the environment or traffic, nor has it laid out the cost of the project.
"For sure we have an idea, but I can't announce today what the cost of the third link will be," Bonnardel said. "We will have to have more time to work on this project and be prepared to announce this third link project with the cost."
Bruno Massicotte, a civil engineering professor at Montreal's École Polytechnique, told CBC's Breakaway the new route has "fewer unknowns," in terms of construction challenges, than the previous proposal.
Massicotte, who worked on the initial feasibility study on a third link between the north and south shores in 2016, said the downtown connection is a "conventional tunnel" and would likely be more affordable than the more easterly route.
But Massicotte also said building public transportation stations will add to the overall cost of the project.
"In terms of cost, it's reducing on one side but adding on another," he said.
Liberal and Québec Solidaire MNAs skeptical
The Québec Solidaire MNA for Taschereau, Catherine Dorion, said she is not convinced of the merits of the new plan. Dorion said she is concerned that the cost has not been disclosed, that Quebecers could be footing the bill for years to come, and that the plan could change again, "for the umpteenth time."
The Liberal MNA for La Pinière, Gaétan Barrette, has accused Bonnardel of lying in the spring when he said the route to the east was the best option for the third link. Barrette said in a statement that the minister is now "pulling a rabbit out of the hat."
He said it is "unacceptable" to propose a new route without providing more details.
Premier François Legault said even though his government said last spring the preferred route was to the east, both route options have always been on the table. He said the support from Labeaume and Lehouillier for a more centrally located tunnel adds weight to that option.
Bonnardel said further details — including the projected cost of the tunnel — will be unveiled in the next few weeks.
With files from CBC's Breakaway and Radio-Canada