(Quebec) The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) recommends a tramway for the capital and doubts the need for a third highway link, in a report which will be unveiled on Wednesday and which was commissioned by the Legault government.

Quebec’s Minister of Transport said she wanted to “analyze” the report before commenting on it at length. Geneviève Guilbault, however, reiterated her support for the third motorway link in a statement, while remaining extremely vague on the tram project.

CDPQ Infra must unveil its study tomorrow on mobility in the greater Quebec region. According to our information, the Caisse concludes that the tram is the right mode of transport for the capital.

In its study, the broad outlines of which were first revealed by Radio-Canada, CDPQ Infra however recommends returning to the route between Le Gendre and Charlesbourg. This is the route originally proposed by Régis Labeaume in March 2018 when he announced the tram project. Charlesbourg had since been replaced by D’Estimauville after an intervention by the Legault government.

Former mayor Labeaume, who had his hand forced by the government in order to modify the route, did not want to react to the Caisse report, which essentially proves him right.

“What the Caisse de dépôt pour Québec report will demonstrate without a shadow of a doubt is that the main problem with public transportation in Quebec will have been the CAQ,” reacted the leader of the Parti Québécois, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon.

He recalls that it was the CAQ which changed the route “for political purposes, thus causing a significant increase in costs and delays”. “According to current information, the CDPQ would return to a project similar to the original route. Which would demonstrate that the City of Quebec had worked well and that the incompetence of the CAQ will have cost us several billion dollars,” adds the leader of the PQ.

CDPQ Infra would recommend going to D’Estimauville in a second phase of the project, and to Lebourgneuf in the third place.

The study also recommends reducing the length of tram trains, from 45 to 35 meters. This would make it possible to reduce the radius of the curves, particularly in the tunnel which must connect Upper and Lower Town. This solution would reduce the bill, which was estimated at 8.4 billion by Mayor Marchand. The Caisse proposes to increase the frequency of the tramway, to compensate for the smaller trains.

The wired power network would also be abandoned in certain denser sectors of the capital. The cars would therefore be hybrid: powered by wire or battery.

La Caisse ultimately offers two rapid bus services (SRB), one in Lévis and the other in Charest, in Quebec.

According to our information, the Caisse would be ready “to go further” in its mandate, and in particular to be the project manager for the tramway construction site. This avenue is viewed favorably both by the government and at Quebec City Hall.

The Caisse also analyzed six routes for a possible third link, but did not retain any of them. Traffic between the two banks would not justify the cost of such a work. She notes that the mandate of the Legault government focused on mobility and that an analysis based on mobility does not justify it.

She notes, however, that other reasons could justify it, such as the economic security of the region, since truck transport currently only passes via the Pierre-Laporte bridge.

The Minister of Transport did not hesitate to rush into this half-open door, in a statement on Tuesday. “The CDPQ Infra report underlines that the presence of a single motorway link between the two banks poses an economic security issue,” writes Geneviève Guilbault.

“It is irresponsible to have only one link allowing the transportation of goods in Eastern Quebec. If one day the Pierre-Laporte bridge were to close for a few months, or even a few years, there is no other alternative to Quebec than going through Trois-Rivières or Montreal. It would be a real disaster,” continues the minister in a statement which suggests that the CAQ is not ready to bury this new highway project.

Remember that the Legault government has continued to change its mind on the third link issue. He announced in 2019 that he would favor a third link to the east. A year later, Quebec sided with a city center to city center scenario, at a cost of $10 billion. Then in April 2023, like a thunderclap, the CAQ gave up on a new highway link between the banks, brandishing the absence of data to justify such a project.

CDPQ Infra will therefore present its report to journalists on Wednesday. The mayor of Quebec, Bruno Marchand, will then react.