Nearly five years after a runaway train laden with crude oil derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people and destroying a large part of the city’s core, the federal and provincial government announced plans Friday for a railway bypass that will go around the Quebec municipality.
“When politicians make these types of announcements, they are usually all smiles,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “But there’s nothing we wouldn’t give to go back in the past and avoid being here today to make this announcement. Obviously, we can’t rewrite history, but we can, together, shape the future.”
The 12.8-kilometre bypass is expected to cost $133 million with the federal government picking up 60 per cent of the cost, while Quebec takes on the remaining 40 per cent. The federal government has also reached an agreement with the Central Maine & Quebec Railway, the project proponent, which will also own and operate the new rail infrastructure, Trudeau said.
The bypass should be finished by 2022, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said.
The new route that will take rail traffic away from the downtown area was selected following a feasibility study commissioned by the municipality.
Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau confirmed Friday 44 property owners in the neighbouring towns of Nantes and Frontenac will be affected by the bypass and may have to cede part of their land.
Garneau said officials will begin meetings with those residents immediately to discuss adequate compensation.
The project has run into opposition by the mayors of Frontenac and Nantes , who say it would cut through farmland and development projects in their municipalities.
Couillard said several factors were considered in choosing the new train route, including the proximity to Lac-Megantic’s industrial sector.
“The bypass has to be far enough away from town, and close enough to businesses to contribute to the economic well-being of the community,” he said.
Trudeau said he knows the project will inconvenience some people, but he and his colleagues believe they’ve made the right choice.
With files from The Canadian Press and Alison Brunette of CBC News