$59M in 3rd Link Studies, but still nothing public | Elections Quebec 2022

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$59M in studies on the 3rd link, but still nothing public | &Elections Québec 2022

A drilling platform takes samples from the bottom of the St. Lawrence River to document the quality of the soil for the construction of the Quebec-Lévis tunnel.

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The Ministère des Transports (MTQ) has signed a $31M contract for the preparation of the preliminary design for the tunnel between Québec-Lévis, bringing the total amount invested in studies for the third link to 59.3M $. However, the government has no data to share with taxpayers.

This contract was signed with the Union des Rives consortium in April 2022, according to the MTQ's list of financial commitments.

The pre-project stage notably provides for the design of road transport infrastructure including tunnels, structures and engineering structures, according to the call for tenders launched in June 2021, less two months after the government presented its Réseau express de la Capitale (REC), which at the time included the construction of a 19.4 m tunnel.

Called to react, the cabinet of François Legault replied: These additional investments for the preliminary project clearly demonstrate that our project for a third Quebec-Lévis link is progressing and being carried out. It is quite normal for expenses to be incurred. […] Quebecers in the greater Quebec City region gave us a strong mandate in 2018: to carry out the third link project. That's what we do.

According to the MTQ's Project Preparation Guide, the pre-project phase is the phase that follows the opportunity study.

François Legault has been insisting, however, for a week now, that the opportunity study for his four-lane tunnel project that connects the city centers of Quebec and Lévis is still in progress and that it will be completed at the beginning of 2023.

The government is therefore embarking on the second phase of the project even before having obtained the results of its opportunity study which makes it possible to assess whether a project deserves to be realized.

In particular, the latter would make it possible to know the feasibility of the project, its schedule, its costs, its possible connections, as well as its impacts on the territory, traffic and public transport.

The MTQ indicates that it has not broken its own rules.

This path can be modified along the way for a multitude of factors, such as productivity gains, [the] maximization of deadlines, [of] technical considerations. […] Some calls for tenders can sometimes begin concomitantly depending on the approach chosen by the Ministry, always in compliance with the Act respecting contracting by public bodies, responds spokesperson Nicolas Vigneault.

There are several studies on the third link commissioned by the MTQ. These include:

  • an opportunity study carried out at a cost of $8.4 million by the Consortium Groupe Mobilité Inter-rives in 2018;
  • a contract for carry out land surveying and bathymetry work and other related activities related to the 3rd link project, entrusted to Groupement Foncier MNT Inter Rive for $1.5 million in 2019;
  • a $16.2 million contract for land and marine geotechnical surveys, awarded to the SNC-Lavalin–Englobe consortium in July 2020;
  • an environmental impact study for the Québec-Lévis tunnel and on the receiving environment, awarded to the SNC-Lavalin–Englobe joint venture in September 2021 for $1.9 million;
  • a study Preparation of the preliminary draft and support for the project of the tunnel between Quebec and Lévis, awarded to the Union des rives consortium in April 2022 for $31 million.

Total costs: $59 million

The study awaited by the opposition parties and the mayor of Quebec, Bruno Marchand , is that of opportunity.

Thursday evening, during the leaders' debate on Radio-Canada, the leader of the Conservative Party of Quebec (PCQ), Éric Duhaime, asked the head of the CAQ: Who is doing the study and how much does the study cost?. I don't know, replied François Legault.

The head of the CAQ had the answers Friday morning at a press conference: the opportunity study for a four-lane tunnel between Quebec and Lévis was entrusted to Groupe Mobilité Inter-rives for an amount of 8.4 M$.

François Legault was questioned several times by Éric Duhaime about the third link.

Verification made, the contract for Groupe Mobilité Inter-rives was awarded by the Liberal government of Philippe Couillard in May 2018. The Consortium then had the mandate to carry out an opportunity study to assess whether the Quebec region needed a third link and, if so, to analyze five potential corridors. The public contract was worth $6.7 million.

The Liberals were in power less than five months after the contract was signed.

According to a list of MTQ financial commitments, an additional $1.6 million was granted to the Consortium in September 2019, one year after the CAQ, which brought the total amount of the same contract to $8.4 million. Justification of the additional amount: modifications to the initial concept, it is written.

The contract with Groupe Mobilité Inter-rives has therefore been in progress since 2018 and is still in progress, according to public documents.

What has this consortium achieved since 2018? MTQ spokesperson Nicolas Vigneault responds: The analysis of a link passing through Île d'Orléans was done as part of the initial mandate of the opportunity study. The study of a downtown to downtown route was added later.

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