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A Light Rail System for Montreal by 2018? Impossible, Say Officials

The Champlain Bridge leading to Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

The decision to abandon the timelines set for the future Champlain Bridge is forcing everyone to sit down and go back to the drawing board.

The decision made by the committee for a proposed light rail project last Wednesday was just as sudden as it was devastating. They concluded that it is simply impossible to carry out a public transportation project of this magnitude for 2018.

According to my sources, a recent meeting turned out to be quite turbulent. It was a tense meeting that forced everyone to change the orientation of the light rail project in order to meet the new ultimatum issued by Ottawa.

Yet, while officials belonging to the project's committee found a scheduled finish date of 2021 to be possible, but somewhat of a close-call, they concluded that aiming for 2018 would be much too ambitious. After all, they pointed out, it is not only a question of adding a train onto the bridge, but also a transportation system that would need to link the southern part of the city to the downtown area while also passing through some hard-to-reach areas of Montreal.

A light rail track.

Statements made by the AMT (Metropolitan Transport Agency), which oversees the project committee, indicate that they refuse to confirm or deny this confidential information.

But, focusing instead on the political discussions between Quebec and Ottawa, these discussions could lead to the creation of a project committee solely devoted to the bridge and light rail system. Some think that this is the only way the two projects can be delivered in one go.

From my understanding, there is a divide between political staff and local officials across all sectors. For the AMT as well as for the Ministry of Transport's cabinet, the directors still think it is possible to deliver the light rail system on time if the usual steps are lifted, such as consultations and other considerations. Meanwhile, local officials maintain the opposite to be true, considering the completion of the light rail in 2018 to be impossible, regardless of government wishes.

Who is correct? Those who think that it can be done quickly, like it was done in the past with the city's metro and dams? Or rather those who argue that we can no longer complete a project of this caliber at top speed while also completing the necessary regulatory steps, the way it used to be done?

Are light rail systems an essential form of urban mobility for large cities, or are they merely a welcomed luxury?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Original article, originally published in French, here.