It’s time to ex­tend Or­ange Line, DeSousa says

Let’s take ad­van­tage of tun­nel work for un­der­ground garage, DeSousa says

Montreal Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - RENÉ BRUEMMER rbruem­mer@post­media.com twit­ter.com/rene­bruem­mer

With a mas­sive pit 10 storeys deep al­ready ex­ca­vated in St-Lau­rent, one kilo­me­tre of métro tun­nel al­ready dug and ex­pen­sive tun­nelling ma­chin­ery im­ported from Ger­many on-site, now is the ideal time to ex­tend the métro’s Or­ange Line north to con­nect with the Deux-Mon­tagnes train line, Alan DeSousa says.

“For them to push through and dig an­other kilo­me­tre of tun­nel, with all the equip­ment al­ready on-site at the depth it needs to be at, would rep­re­sent huge sav­ings,” said DeSousa, the mayor of StLau­rent, the city ’s fastest-grow­ing bor­ough. “If we were to be smart, if we were to use the ex­ist­ing re­sources, it would be very easy and in­ex­pen­sive. Es­pe­cially com­pared to hav­ing to go back and dig it all up again.”

Mon­treal’s largest pub­lic-tran­sit project in 50 years — the REM light-rail elec­tric net­work — is slated to take over the Deux-Mon­tagnes line. As it will add branches flow­ing from the Bois-Franc train sta­tion that will con­nect to the city’s air­port and the West Is­land, the need to con­nect to the métro line is all the more press­ing, DeSousa said.

The mayor res­ur­rected the idea af­ter Mon­treal’s tran­sit author­ity gave the me­dia a tour of a new métro park­ing garage be­ing built slightly north of the Côte-Vertu sta­tion, the fi­nal stop for the western arm of the Or­ange Line. The work ne­ces­si­tated dig­ging down 30 me­tres to bring in equip­ment and put in tun­nels, mean­ing half the dis­tance be­tween Côte-Vertu and Bois-Franc has al­ready been dug.

Re­ports com­mis­sioned by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment re­leased in 2013 pri­or­i­tized ex­tend­ing Mon­treal’s Blue Line east­ward, but also favoured the ex­ten­sion of the Or­ange Line to the north to pro­vide in­ter­modal ac­cess be­tween the train and métro, DeSousa said. That re­port came be­fore the 67-kilo­me­tre REM train net­work was an­nounced.

“The in­ser­tion of the REM is a game-changer,” DeSousa said. Ex­tend­ing the Or­ange Line would also pro­vide an al­ter­na­tive if ever there was a prob­lem on the REM line, that will go through a tun­nel un­der Mount Royal to get to down­town.

The con­nec­tion would ben­e­fit mem­bers of nu­mer­ous com­mu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­larly in the north­ern and western ar­eas of the city, DeSousa said, since the Deux-Mon­tagnes line is by far Mon­treal’s busiest com­muter rail line. The bor­ough of St-Lau­rent has grown by 30 per cent in the last 15 years, DeSousa noted, and with its large in­dus­trial base, has the sec­ond high­est con­cen­tra­tion of peo­ple work­ing there af­ter the down­town Ville-Marie bor­ough. Mon­treal Mayor Valérie Plante’s Pro­jet Mon­tréal has sup­ported the idea in the past.

Que­bec’s trans­port min­istry, how­ever, has been quiet on the idea, pre­fer­ring to pro­mote the re­cently an­nounced con­struc­tion of the Blue Line for five stops and 5.8 kilo­me­tres at a cost $3.9 bil­lion. The min­istry did not re­spond to a re­quest for an in­ter­view Thurs­day.

DeSousa’s plan could be un­der­mined by the fact the REM line will con­nect with the métro’s Blue Line at the Édouard-Mont­petit sta­tion next to Univer­sité de Mon­tréal.

The Au­torité ré­gionale de trans­port métropoli­taine (ARTM), which over­sees tran­sit plan­ning for the Mon­treal re­gion, said pre­lim­i­nary stud­ies had been car­ried out in the past, but it was too early at this point to com­ment. The con­cept is be­ing stud­ied dur­ing strategic plan­ning ses­sions com­ing in the fall, spokesper­son Fanie St-Pierre said.

In an in­ter­view with the Huff­in­g­ton Post in 2016, McGill ur­ban plan­ning pro­fes­sor Ahmed El-Geneidy said the num­ber of po­ten­tial users would not jus­tify a métro ex­ten­sion, be­cause an ex­press bus line be­tween the Bois-Franc and Côte-Vertu sta­tions would serve the pur­pose at a far lower cost. Now a mem­ber of the ARTM’s board of di­rec­tors, ElGeneidy said Thurs­day he could not com­ment.

Geneviève Boisjoly, a PhD stu­dent in McGill’s depart­ment of ur­ban plan­ning, said the pro­posal would have to be an­a­lyzed to see if it made sense in terms of rid­er­ship and eco­nom­ics to ex­tend the line for just one sta­tion, as op­posed to go­ing fur­ther and into Laval.

“My ini­tial re­ac­tion is it’s not a bad idea, but it has to be an­a­lyzed in terms of what is needed,” she said.

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