Quebec budget 'excellent news' for Montreal's public transit plans, mayor says

Quebec budget 'excellent news' for Montreal's public transit plans, mayor says

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre says he's "really, really pleased" the provincial budget includes spending on some big public transit projects.

"We are going to invest big-time in public transport. We are serious about electrification, we are serious about that light rail system, making sure the priority of the Blue line is there," Coderre said about an hour after the Liberal government tabled its fourth budget.

"We have a firm engagement of the government of Quebec."

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The province will fork over about $1.3 billion for the light rail train project, which would connect 24 stations stretching from the South Shore to Montreal's Trudeau airport, to both the West Island and Laval. That represents 24.5 per cent of the total cost of the project.

Quebec is hoping Ottawa will make a matching commitment.

In its budget tabled last week, the Trudeau government said it was willing to participate in the project, but did not set an amount.

Meanwhile, the Caisse de depot et placement du Québec, which is the province's giant pension fund manager, will pay for 51 per cent of the cost, or $ 2.7 billion.

Michael Sabia, head of the Caisse de Depot, said today was "a very important" day.

"The government's decision to make the investment that they are in the [LRT] project for Montreal is a very important step toward the realization of this project that has so much potential to simplify thousands of people's lives every day in Montreal, to promote economic growth and productivity, which we certainly need, and at the same time, to generate a stable return that our depositors need and our depositors are the people of Quebec," Sabia said.

Metro's Blue line extension

The budget, which has a projected surplus of nearly $2.5 billion for 2017-2018, also gives a nod to Montreal's plan to extend the Metro's Blue line eastwards into Anjou.

The Couillard government announced that funds have been set aside in the Quebec Infrastructure Plan 2017-2027 to finance the project, but without specifying an amount. The province is also counting on Ottawa to pitch in.

Coderre said he's not concerned that a precise figure has not yet been specified.

"We have to do step-by-step, and the fact that not only they say it will be done and there will be some specific money…it will happen. It's for real."

Construction of the Blue line is not expected to start until 2021. If everything goes as scheduled, it should be up and running by 2025.

To pay for the billions of dollars promised in public transit, the province will draw from its infrastructure spending plan of more than $90 billion over 10 years, which will run from 2017 to 2027.