Dorval mayor says extending REM a «no-brainer»

Dorval is pressing the new Réseau express métropolitain to add another station at the VIA Rail Station near the Dorval Circle

Dorval Mayor Edgar Rouleau said it’s a “no-brainer” to extend the REM line since the tunnelling machine to the airport is operating this year, less than a kilometre away from the VIA Rail station. John Kenney / John Kenney / THE GAZETTE

The city of Dorval is pressing the new Réseau express métropolitain (REM) to add another station at the VIA Rail Station, located near the Dorval Circle and Highway 20.

Dorval Mayor Edgar Rouleau said the city passed a resolution in council last week to formally request the REM and governing transportation authorities extend the REM from Montreal’s Trudeau International Airport one more stop to the nearby intermodal train station, used by VIA Rail and commuter trains.

Rouleau said it’s a “no-brainer” to extend the line once the tunnelling machine to the airport is operating underground, less than a kilometre away from the VIA Rail station.

“The time to do it is now,” said Rouleau, who says industrial-scale tunnelling is a one-and-done operation.

““If they say, ‘We’ll do it in phase 2’, it will never been done because they’ll never bring back the tunnelling machine. It would be too expensive.”

Rouleau said the plan also has the support of Phillipe Rainville, head of the Aéroports de Montréal. Rainville recently said it “would be sad to miss this opportunity to provide an additional transit option for airport users.”

In December, the REM told the Montreal Gazette it would only examine the possibility of an extension once an official request had been made by the city. “A technical and financial analysis will then be carried out and handed over to these authorities for decision-making,” the spokesperson said.

Rouleau said the city recommended an extension at public (BAPE environmental) hearings in 2016, but says city council decided to pass a resolution to make a formal request.

“Hopefully, we’ll get the (provincial) government to move,” the mayor said.

Rouleau noted there is widespread support for the REM extension. “The ADM is on board, Via Rail is on board even the Caisse de dépôt (which is spearheading the REM project) agrees with what we’re saying. But it is the MTQ (Quebec Transport Ministry) that pays. The Caisse said it makes sense. Everyone agreed, but nobody said the final ‘yes’. “

Rouleau said having the REM extension would help to unlock vehicle congestion in the busy Dorval Circle, which is a traffic nightmare during rush hour.

With the airport, VIA Rail and bus terminals all located in close proximity of Dorval Circle, Rouleau noted that Dorval serves as a transportation hub for all of Montreal.

He said having another REM station would allow West Islanders and other travellers from the Via train station to use the REM instead of taking their cars downtown or elsewhere.

“If we want people to leave their cars at home, then we have to make it easier for them to take public transit,” he said.

“Otherwise, everyone will be trying to get on the REM at the airport and that makes no sense,” Rouleau said. “There are also security issues at the airport, and if you have thousands of people who aren’t even using the airport trying to get on the REM there, it’s only going to make things more (congested) and difficult for everybody.”

Anne-Sophie Hamel, vice president of public affairs for the ADM,  recently noted that the airport’s new light-rail station, set to open in 2023, will be built as part of a $2.5 billion upgrade of the existing airport structure, including a new multi-level parking facility.

She said the REM will not only ferry thousands of passengers to the airport, but will also provide another mode of transportation for 13,000 airport employees who commute to the busy airport on a daily basis.

It will take about 20 minutes to travel from downtown to the airport, according to REM estimates.

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