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Tramway on track in Montreal

Mayor Gérald Tremblay: "Citizens are saying, they told us very clearly: Priority? Public transit."

Published by CBC News on Wednesday, June 11, 2008.

Montreal will have a tramway system up and running by 2013, Mayor Gérald Tremblay said Wednesday.

The tramway lines are part of Montreal's new transportation policy, which hinges on expanding public transit to take cars off roads and highways, Tremblay said.

"Gridlock is more and more present every day. People are spending over two hours in their car to come to work ... it creates major problems, stress problems, asthma problems, respiratory problems," he said.

"As a result of that, citizens are saying, they told us very clearly: Priority? Public transit."

The city's executive committee decided to include tramway lines in the new transportation policy after numerous debates on the subject that produced study commissions, position papers and countless recommendations.

People are more open to public transportation because of environmental concerns and the rising cost of gas, said André Lavallée, an executive city council committee member.

"We've moved on from the dreaming stage to feasibility," he said. "It's not just enough to lay down tracks on the road. We have to make sure the underground infrastructure is sound, and if it's not, we'll have to replace them."

The city will pay $1 million for a feasibility study to evaluate options for a tramway system. The first phase of the project could cost $260 million.

"To support that kind of investment, Montreal needs a source of revenue dedicated to public transit," including bridge tolls, Tremblay said.

Montreal is banking on financial help from the federal and provincial governments, the mayor said. 3 lines planned

The first tramway loop will run 20 kilometres through the downtown business sector, Griffintown, Havre de Montréal, Old Montreal, the Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM), and the entertainment district.

Two more tramway lines will eventually be added: one along Parc Avenue and another on Côte-des-Neiges Road.

The city has lost ground compared with European and other American urban centres, where tramway lines have long been established, Tremblay said.

Montreal boasted 378 kilometres of tramway tracks as recently as 1959, a network that was abandoned under pressure from the automobile lobby, he said.

The transportation plan also includes measures to extend the subway system east and west. The blue line will be extended from Saint-Michel to Pie IX, and the orange line will be extended beyond Côte-Vertu, with another station planned for Laval.

Another station will be added to the yellow Longueuil line.