The increase in the expected costs of the tram forces Quebec City to abandon the trambus. With the withdrawal of this major component of the structuring network project, the tram now accounts for 94% of the project budget.
The withdrawal of the trambus project frees up nearly $ 500 million in the budget. The project office needed it to deal with the rising costs of the tram, whose estimated costs have exploded since December, from 2.3 to 3.1 billion on a total budget of 3.3 billion.
Since December, the tramway design team has realized that it was missing $ 696.8 million to complete it, in particular due to the high costs of the tunnel and stations under Parliament Hill as well as the displacement of underground infrastructure.
Planned in the project from the start, the trambus was to link the Estimauville sector, near the river, to Laval University via Boulevard Charest, in Lower Town. However, rather than making the journey in 28 to 30 minutes using a reserved lane in the center of the road, buses should complete it in approximately 35 minutes on a single reserved lane by the side of the road. By way of comparison, it currently takes 38 minutes to get there by Metrobus, passing through the Upper Town.
At a press conference, the project office team defended their choice by arguing that the route on Charest Boulevard remains an “improvement” since there are no lines at this location.
“What matters to me is the end result,” said Régis Labeaume, who said he wanted in the first place “to respect the budget by transporting so many people”. “We said [it would cost] $ 3.3 billion, not a penny more.”
Mr. Labeaume also said he dismissed the idea of using public transportation for real estate development along Charest Boulevard. The Legendre sector, which is at the western end of the tram route, now seems much more promising. He also argued that the population of the Saint-Sauveur neighborhood was opposed to the reconfiguration of the boulevard required by the trambus.
A structuring network or a tram?
Since its election in 2017, the Labeaume administration has insisted very much that the project should not be described as a “tram”, but rather as a “structuring network”. However, with the removal of the trambus, is this nuance still relevant?
“It is even more a real structuring network with what we announced on Friday,” retorted Mayor Labeaume. On Friday, the City announced that it plans to extend its public transit routes to the periphery to connect its public transportation network to neighboring RCMs. However, this project is not part of the 3.3 billion envelope.
The sidelining of the trambus is not the first significant change to the project. In recent weeks, the Project Office has also abandoned one of the two planned maintenance centers. It has diverted the route between Saint-Roch and Limoilou near a residential street and plans to reduce the length of the tunnel by 500 meters in the Montcalm sector.
However, there will be no more announcements of this kind since the Public Environmental Hearing Office must begin to assess the project as of July 6.