The Caisse de Depot is willing to invest $3 billion for a new public transit system that will connect the South Shore to downtown, the West Island and Deux-Montagnes.

President Michael Sabia said the proposed electric, light-rail line will have 24 stations covering 67 km, and will run 20 hours a day, seven days a week.

The trains will be automated and not require a driver, much like light rail systems that have been in place in Vancouver since 1986.

"The Caisse is willing to put up $3 billion," for this project said Sabia, adding that the project will require an additional $2.5 billion from the federal and provincial governments.

"This project will create 7,500 jobs per year during the four years of construction," as crews build tunnels, new rail lines, and the trains themselves.

Electric trains, new tracks

The proposal would see trains leaving the South Shore every six minutes at peak hours, and leaving the airport, Ste. Anne de Bellevue, and Deux Montagnes every 12 minutes.

Sabia is proposing 24 stations, with connections to the existing train and metro stations at Central Station and the McGill metro station.

Going through the West Island the train line would parallel Highway 40, and so not need to share the existing freight train lines currently used by the AMT.

Macky Tall of the Caisse said the proposed trains would require quite a bit of work, including changes to the tunnel undernearth Mount Royal.

He said that tunnel was one of the reasons an electric train was chosen.

"By shifting to the new technology we're proposing... the light rail allows us to quadrulple the theoretical capacity through the Mont Royal tunnel, and that allows us to meet not only the additional demand of customers in the mountain, but allows us also to also meet the demand coming from the West Island, coming from the airport today, and even more important for the years to come," said Tall.

Financial support from government 

"There are three conditions for this to happen," said Sabia.

"First we need financial input from the Quebec and federal goverment. Second we have to get approval from all municipal governments," said Sabia.

He did not expect the idea of an LRT to get universal approval, but he said a widespread consensus was necessary.

The final condition will be environmental approval from the provincial government.

The Mayor of Montreal fully supports the project, and says the largest public transit development in 50 years will revolutionize the city.

"I'm asking the governments of Canada and Quebec to fund this proposal, and I know Premier Philippe Couillard will be willing to fund this," said Coderre.

"This priority is essential for us, and you can count on our support."

Unusual investment for the Caisse

The Caisse's infrastructure arm was launched less than a year ago, although the Caisse has funded transit projects in other countries.

Sabia said the structure of this project, as a public-private partnership, was different than what the Caisse was normally involved in.

"One of the things that we need to work on, and something that's important here for everyone to understand: we are taking the traffic risk here. This is unusual because generally it's goverments hat take that risk," said Sabia.

"We believe that we have, based on the things we've done elsewhere in the world, the capability to do that and it interests us."

Sabia added he considered the project a win-win situation that would generate billions in economic spinoffs for Montreal and areas adjacent to the train line.

"The people will win, the economy will win, the environment will win."