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Montreal's long-awaited Blue line extension could soon, finally, be a reality. Here's why

CBC
The Blue line extension cometh — Quebec will make it official Monday

The much-discussed, long-awaited extension of the Metro's Blue line could finally be closer to becoming a reality.

You've probably heard that before (it's an idea that's been bandied about since 1979), but there's reason to believe this time it may actually happen.

Here are a few reasons why.

For one, Quebec Transport Minister André Fortin promised it will be "one of the next major announcements" of the Couillard government, which is preparing for a fall election.

"We are working with the federal government to ensure the funding formula," Fortin said Wednesday at a news conference detailing the Transport Ministry's upcoming investments on the island of Montreal.

The federal government, meanwhile, is rolling out the second phase of its flagship infrastructure plan, worth $33 billion. Ottawa is hoping to sign new funding agreements with the provinces by the end of the month.

The types of projects that will qualify, and the percentage each level of government will contribute, still has to be determined, but all signs point to the province and the city making the project a priority in its discussions with Ottawa.

In January, at his first official meeting in Montreal with Mayor Valérie Plante, Premier Philippe Couillard spoke of Quebec's "unwavering commitment" to the the Blue line extension.

As well, Quebec now has several properties on reserve for expropriation along Jean-Talon Street, between Pie-IX and des Galeries d'Anjou boulevards.

The reserves expire in April — and legally, cannot be renewed.

"We are truly going to find out in April 2018 whether this Metro goes ahead or not," Frank Cavaleri, owner of a building at the corner of Jean-Talon and Lacordaire boulevards which houses a Pharmaprix and a medical clinic, told CBC News earlier this year.

The extension would include five new stations in Montreal's east end, extending all the way to Anjou.

Privately, city frustrated with delays

In a statement to Radio-Canada, Plante said Fortin's comments are "very encouraging."

"We are looking forward to the conclusion of the agreement between Quebec and Ottawa so that this long-awaited project can be launched quickly," she said.

Plante also cautioned that extending the Blue line would put more pressure on the "already-saturated Metro system and we must plan for network growth beyond this extension."

Privately, though, elected officials in Montreal have expressed frustration at the delays in the funding announcement, according to an administration source. 

Let's see shovels in the ground, advocate says

François Pépin, president of Trajectoire Québec, an association that advocates for more public transit in the province, said the announcements are a step "in the right direction."

"For the first time, we feel the unanimity of all stakeholders," he said.

However, he wants to see construction start soon on the Metro extension, with completion in 2025.

"We must now move toward a final business plan and a first shovel of earth," said Pépin.

Christine Fréchette, president of the chamber of commerce for Montreal's east end, echoed that perspective, saying the extension would be a boon to a part of the island that's been underserved by public transit.

"We are more and more impatient," she said. 

"We are ready to receive this investment that will be made for the benefit of workers, the population and economic development in the east."

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