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Studies for the Quebec portion of the Gatineau tramway are already “budgeted,” says Rodriguez

Photo: Spencer Colby archives The Canadian Press Federal Minister of Transport, Pablo Rodriguez

Studies on the Quebec part of the Gatineau tramway are already “budgeted” by the federal government, assures the Minister of Transport, Pablo Rodriguez. “For Quebec studies, [it] is reserved, we have it, this money,” he declared after leaving the caucus. This is what I do not understand ! […] The 40% is already planned, we didn’t need that in the budget. »

Mr. Rodriguez, however, did not specify an amount or a timetable for making the announcement. “There will be information coming soon,” he simply said. I understand that there are concerns, I understand that people are anxious too. But once again, for the Quebec component, the federal portion, it is budgeted, and there, we work to ensure it. »

The day before, the federal MP for Gatineau, Steven MacKinnon, wanted to “reassure everyone” by emphasizing in an interview with Radio-Canada that the tramway is a “highly visible project”.

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Need a “clear” message

There was great disappointment in Gatineau the day after the federal budget was tabled, which contained no trace of funding for this public transportation project. However, Mr. Rodriguez had confirmed less than a month ago that Ottawa would finance the studies with a view to implementing the project.

“The Outaouais region remains hungry. We are very disappointed,” said Devoirthe interim mayor of Gatineau, Daniel Champagne, who nevertheless remains “hopeful”. “We do not necessarily want to exclude the possibility that the sums for the tramway are hidden somewhere within the budget documents. But if this is the case, […] let us come out of hiding as quickly as possible”, not “in six months or in four months”, but “in the next few weeks, if not in the next few days” .

Despite Mr. Rodriguez's declaration, the elected official is “neither more nor less reassured”, since the figure of 40% had already been “stated”. “This project was announced for the first time in 2013, it is 2024 and we are still waiting for commitments. And […] from the moment the studies start, we can think that there will be 10 to 12 years before the first train rolls on the rails. »

According to a report presented to the Société de transport de l’Outaouais (STO), the overall cost of constructing the tramway is estimated at between $3 and $4 billion. The CAQ government has agreed to pay 60% of the costs for the part of the project on Quebec soil, but Ottawa has still not clarified its intentions. The preliminary studies alone, which include architectural opinions and an environmental impact study, will cost between 175 and 200 million, estimates Mr. Champagne.

“The amount is important, but it does not matter to me as much as the commitments to work with us to complete these studies,” he added. For the moment, we need a clear message from the federal government. »

Complex logistics

Earlier Wednesday, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, Jean-Yves Duclos, explained that the interprovincial aspect of the project linking Ottawa and Gatineau complicates things. “It’s a tramway that will cross the river, so we need to connect not only physically, but also politically the two banks, and that’s what we are doing. »

“A project of this magnitude is a federal-provincial project, it is not a municipal project”, even if the City “of course” has several responsibilities, affirms Mr. Champagne, saying he shared “entirely and totally [the] disappointment” of the spokesperson for the Ally for the Tramway coalition, Patrick Robert-Meunier.

“We take note of the silence of the federal government and we strongly denounce it,” Mr. Robert-Meunier wrote Tuesday evening. The fact that the federal government has chosen not to support the project, after so many years of waiting, is a slap in the face for the region. »

The Société de transport de l’Outaouais also said it was “concerned by the lack of information regarding financial participation” from Ottawa. “One thing is clear, with the strong population growth in west Gatineau, we need a tramway to meet the travel needs of the next 30 to 50 years,” wrote the president of its board of directors. , Jocelyn Blondin.

This report is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative, funded by the Government of Canada.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116