The REM light rail line runs underground in downtown Montreal

MONTREAL –

There could be major changes to plans for the REM light rail line in Montreal, as authorities want part of the line’s downtown core to be underground.

Caisse de Dépôt, which is mounting the project, said Thursday that the downtown portion of the line to the east and north will include an underground tunnel under René-Lévesque Boulevard. from Robert Bourassa station to the intersection rue Jeanne-Mance/boul. Rene-Levesque. intersection.

It is the most recent development of the REM de l’Est to avoid an elevated track all along the main artery of Montreal.

Concerns have arisen that the tunnel is not long enough and that the Jeanne-Mance and René-Lévesque intersection would be closed causing a major nuisance to motorists on the busy stretch of road.

The promoters of the project, however, see the tunnel as a major asset for maximizing the efficiency of public transport systems.

“You can connect to all existing metro lines, including the future REM,” said Caisse President Jean-Marc Arbaud. “That, I believe, is the main benefit.”

Studies have been done on the feasibility of making the tunnel even longer, but concerns over cost and delays mean this is no longer on the table.

The administration of the mayoress of Montreal, Valérie Plante, wants more studies to be carried out.

“We have a lot of challenges for the urban integration of the Eastern REM,” said Eric Alan Caldwell, member of the executive committee. “These studies, the effort we have to put in to find other solutions, study them, price them, is to be done for the entire Eastern REM.”

Many groups are concerned about the aesthetic appeal of the train and fear that it will tarnish the city’s image.

“I have to say that we support the project, but we have a lot of questions about urban integration,” said Sylvain Gariepy of the Ordre des urbanistes du Québec.

Gariepy is not only worried about downtown, but also other areas of the city like Sherbrooke and Notre-Dame streets.

“The structure will remain above ground and that is a concern for us,” he said. “What will it look like, what impact will it have on the quality of life of the people who live on these streets?”

Nathalie Drouin, a professor at UQAM, is an expert in project management and said social acceptability is a key issue, but building a project that attracts people can help.

“What does it mean to build national pride,” she said. “It also means having an innovative and very beautiful design. I’m not sure we’re there yet.”

The project will be studied by the Quebec Environmental Review Board in 2022.

Bonny J. Streater