Changes coming to Montreal's proposed light-rail network

The proposal for Montreal's new light-rail network has undergone a few tweaks in a bid to bolster service, and to address concerns from environmentalists.

The projected cost of the project is expected to reach $6.04 billion — up from the original $5.5 billion estimate.

Among the changes — 40 more rail cars will be added to the project, bringing the fleet to 240 cars, in order to meet higher-than-anticipated ridership levels, particularly during rush hour. It's hoped the new vehicles will help ease the congestion on the metro system, particularly along the eastern portion of the metro's orange line.

Meanwhile, the Caisse de Depot announced a partnership with the Quebec's agricultural producers' union, the UPA, to create a land trust in order to protect and preserve about 30 hectares of farmland near the southern end station in Brossard, and to limit urban sprawl in the area.

The UPA had said during environmental hearings that the land on the south side of Highway 30 is currently zoned agricultural, and bulldozing it for 3,000 parking spots and a train station would have disastrous economic consequences as the inevitable urbanization of the area leads to more and more farmland being bought up to build more shopping malls.

Caisse CEO Michael Sabia emphatically stated on Tuesday that the increase in the cost estimate for the project is not a sign the project is about to spiral out of control financially.

"This is not in any was an incidence where costs are rising because of unseen things, or undisciplined management," Sabia said.

He says the project is still on track to begin construction later this year. The first trains are expected to start running in 2020.