Extensive data on a city center to city center tunnel delivered over a year ago
Studies to justify a tunnel that would serve as a third link are long overdue (archives).
The consortium responsible for conducting the study he opportunity for a third link between downtown Quebec and Lévis provided exhaustive data on the feasibility of such a project more than a year ago, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Not only were conclusions drawn, but they were forwarded to the Ministry of Transport (MTQ) and the Prime Minister's Office in 2021, explains a first source who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.
According to our information, these data were even presented to the Labeaume and Lehouillier administrations.
“The consortium has studied in a detailed the feasibility of a tunnel in the city centre. »
— First confidential source
Its possible connections, its impacts on the territory, on traffic and on public transport have been analyzed, says this source.
A second source confirms having seen the results of these analyzes in the spring of 2021, a few weeks before the CAQ government presented with great fanfare its Réseau express de la Capitale (REC), which at the time included the construction of a tunnel with a diameter 19.4m. The project was valued at between $6 billion and $10 billion.
Last April, the government presented a revised third link to reduce costs. Rather than one huge six-lane tunnel, the new version features two smaller ones with two lanes each. Estimated bill for the new iteration: $6.5 billion.
According to our sources, the results delivered by Groupe Mobilité Inter-rives led to the presentation of the REC in May 2021, before the project took on a more modest form a year later. In particular, the lanes reserved for public transport have been removed in the second version.
Our sources say that the government should be more transparent with taxpayers because it already has evidence-based and relevant information.
Both projects have the same number of vehicular lanes, they would end in the same city centers, would affect the same number of citizens, they would be dug in substantially the same place, in the same ground, and would – or not – create sprawl in the same territories.
“It is obvious that the results are relevant. It is not the number of lanes in a tunnel that determines traffic, but the number of people who will use it. It is not because the number of lanes changes that there will be more or less people in the tunnel. The population pool remains the same. »
— Second confidential source
The results would therefore already make it possible to know whether the construction of a tunnel in the city centers would unclog the two bridges to the west at peak times. tip, according to this source.
Regarding the exit on Charest Boulevard in downtown Quebec, the MTQ has the results with and without this connection, according to our information. The second version of the project no longer contains this output in reaction to the discontent of citizens and the City of Quebec.
The data delivered would also make it possible to understand why the government chose to remove the lanes reserved for public transport rather than lanes dedicated to cars in the second version of his project.
Asked repeatedly about third link studies, the head of the CAQ repeated last week: The study of a four-lane downtown to downtown tunnel is still in progress. He also said: we don't have a downtown to downtown study. […] When we have information on the third downtown to downtown link, we will make it public.
Saturday, the minister responsible for the Capital- Nationale, Geneviève Guilbault, specified:
“We have a new project with four tracks instead of six, it's normal that the studies have to be updated. »
— Geneviève Guilbault, Minister responsible for the Capitale-Nationale region
Even if the document is called the downtown to downtown opportunity study, it it is only one input among a panoply of other inputs, which all serve to draw up a final opportunity study, replies the entourage of the head of the CAQ.
All these analyzes are part of the same opportunity study, justifies Nicolas Vigneault, spokesperson for the MTQ.
The government is playing on words, insists our first source. To say that all the studies have to be compiled to make a final opportunity study only serves the government to buy time before publishing the results they have in hand.
Radio-Canada revealed last week that the CAQ signed a contract last spring to prepare the preliminary project for the Quebec-Lévis tunnel at a cost of $31 million to the Consortium Union des Rives. All this before making its opportunity study public, which makes it possible to assess whether the tunnel deserves to be built.
To go to the design stage [preliminary project], we must have information that allows us to determine in particular the capacity, the circulation, the layout or the demographic projection. Otherwise, there is a problem, explains Fanny Tremblay-Racicot, assistant professor at the National School of Public Administration (ENAP).
The Inter-Rives Mobility Group's mandate has been ongoing for four years. No results of his work have been revealed so far.
The contract was awarded to him by the Liberal government of Philippe Couillard in May 2018, less than five months before the CAQ took power, according to the call for tenders published at the time. The consortium then had the mandate to carry out an opportunity study to assess whether the Quebec City region needed a third link and, if so, to analyze five potential corridors. The public contract was worth $6.7M.
An additional $1.6M for modification of the initial concept in September 2019 brought the total amount to $8.4M .
Indeed, when the CAQ forms the government, the engineering mandate changes.
Transport Minister François Bonnardel's first decision was to request that only scenarios near Île d'Orléans be evaluated to build a link between the two shores of the St. Lawrence.
According to the MTQ Road Project Preparation Guide, there is a procedure to follow in the context of major projects. In an opportunity study, you must first assess the needs and then the solutions.
“The CAQ skipped the first step and decided that the solution was a tunnel to the east before knowing if we really needed a third link and if the chosen corridor was the most optimal. »
— Confidential source
For this sector, the Prime Minister does not hide it: We have a study for a six-lane route on the island of Orléans, he said several times last week.
The tunnel project at the tip of Île d'Orléans has been studied throughout 2019 , according to our information.
In June 2019, the Minister of Transport officially announced that the tunnel's preferred route was under Île d'Orléans. During the same press conference, François Bonnardel specified that a route to downtown Quebec would be studied. However, the minister did not give much weight to this option.
According to our sources, it was only when the CAQ learned of the results of the tunnel study at the île d'Orléans that it stopped on a new route passing through town centres.
In January 2020, François Bonnardel announced that the route was changing and that it would now end in downtown Quebec. The decision therefore seemed to be made, more than a year before the minister and his ministry obtained the conclusions of the consortium on the feasibility of a tunnel in city centers.
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