Downtown portion of Montreal's planned REM de l'Est project abandoned

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced that the REM de l'Est light rail line will be much different than original planned.

Dissatisfaction with the REM de l'Est project proposed by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, prompted the two government leaders to announce that the portion of the line that was supposed to snake through Montreal's downtown core, above ground, would be abandoned due to lack of social acceptability.

The eastern section of the REM will instead be developed only on the sections that already have broad public support, and the city of Montreal and the province will take over the project.

"Since Day 1, our goal has been to achieve the best possible public transit project in the eastern part of the Greater Montreal area," said Legault in a  news release on Monday. "The project has evolved, over time, and it must continue to evolve. We are making the necessary adjustments to fulfill our commitment to build the REM de l'Est."

The REM de l'Est will thus be linked to the metro, a decision that means that the project no longer fits in with the financial structure of the Caisse's subsidiary CDPQ Infra.

The management of the project will therefore be entrusted to a team made up of the ministère des Transports du Québec, the City of Montreal and the Société de transport in collaboration with the transit planning group ARTM (Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain).

Community groups and citizens voiced concern about how the rail line would alter Montreal's downtown and landmarks such as the arched entry point to Chinatown.

The ARTM issued a report in February that argued the line wouldn't be worth the $10 billion price tag based on ridership habits in the east end. 

"We are taking the necessary steps to carry out the REM de l'Est in an exemplary manner, as requested by citizens and experts," said Plante. "The directions agreed upon by the City of Montreal and the Government of Quebec will allow the Eastern REM to offer a structuring transportation link to under-served sectors, while taking advantage of the existing network."

The CDPQ said in a statement Monday that it is going to seek reimbursement from the government for the "detailed technical studies" it carried out for the project, according to the terms of their agreement.  

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