MONTREAL -- The future tunnel between Quebec City and Levis will cost taxpayers at least $7 billion and its construction under the St. Lawrence River will take about 10 years.

In addition to this amount, there will be various other costs, the extent of which is difficult to evaluate at this time, but which could reach up to 35 per cent of the construction cost, according to the estimate made by the Ministry of Transport.

Since the beginning of the current mandate nearly three years ago, Transport Minister François Bonnardel had always refused to evaluate the cost of this infrastructure project, which is of uncommon scope and technical complexity.

The third link between the capital's South Shore and North Shore will stretch 8.3 kilometers between the two city centers and one lane will be dedicated to public transit for electric buses. Its diameter will be 19.4 metres.

Groundbreaking is still scheduled for 2022, in time for the next election campaign.

Details of the megaproject, which was part of the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ)'s 2018 election commitments were made public Monday at a press conference attended by Premier François Legault, Transport Minister François Bonnardel, Minister responsible for the capital Geneviève Guilbault, Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume and Levis Mayor Gilles Lehouillier.

The Legault government had committed to starting the project before the end of the current mandate.

The government's announcement also included the parallel construction of a nearly 20-kilometre streetcar line in Quebec City, called the Capital Express Network, with a planned start-up date of 2027, at a projected cost of $3.3 billion.

The project, which has seen many twists and turns over the past few years, particularly with regard to the preferred route, aims to promote public transit. It will provide dedicated lanes to better serve the suburbs of Quebec City. 

In the eyes of the government, these two projects are complimentary. Stations in the Quebec-Lévis tunnel will allow for a connection with the tramway and connections with buses.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 17, 2021.