It’s time to extend Orange Line, DeSousa says
Let’s take advantage of tunnel work for underground garage, DeSousa says
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.