QUEBEC -- The Coalition avenir Québec is abandoning cars for its third link project. It will be dedicated solely to public transit.

The information, first reported by TVA Nouvelles, was confirmed to The Canadian Press by a government source late Tuesday afternoon.

Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault is expected to make the announcement on Thursday.

Updated studies on the project prompted the government to change course. Premier François Legault has repeatedly said that the project must be re-evaluated in light of remote work, which became popular during the pandemic.

The time it takes to cross between Quebec City and Levis has decreased, making a third highway link no longer necessary.

The final details have yet to be worked out, but it is possible that the tramway will connect Quebec City and Lévis.

This new version of the third link could also benefit from federal government assistance.

Last year, the government presented an "update" of the project, which it evaluated at $6.5 billion. It planned to build two tunnels with four lanes, none of which would have been entirely dedicated to public transit.

The new version will have only one tunnel. 

The third link is a key promise of the Legault government. The minister and elected representative of the Quebec City region, Éric Caire, had even put his seat on the line on this issue.

During the last election campaign, the current Minister of Education, Bernard Drainville, made a plea for the third link: "Give me a break on the GHGs," he said in response to the argument that the project is not environmentally friendly.

The change of plans announced Tuesday has garnered swift reaction from opposition parties.

"It's been five years that the CAQ has been fooling the people of Quebec. Today, we see what François Legault's word is really worth. With this Caquist government, we have lost five years to solve the mobility problem in the National Capital," said interim Liberal leader Marc Tanguay.

"Finally, the CAQ recognizes that its project for a highway under the river was a mistake! A great victory for the people of Quebec City and excellent news for all of Quebec! For the rest, we will judge the tree by its fruits. The capital region deserves a public transit project that meets its needs, and that is supported by the experts," said Etienne Grandmont, the Quebec Solidaire official responsible for transportation.

"We are very happy with this news, and we congratulate the CAQ for backing down on the car part. This proposal is now very similar to that of the PQ during the campaign. We will therefore collaborate in its realization. Quebec City deserves it," said PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon.

A strong supporter of the project, the Conservative leader, Eric Duhaime, strongly criticized the government's decision: "The CAQ has just betrayed the trust of the people of Quebec. François Legault chooses Montreal columnists over Quebec City voters. Elected on lies, how many Caquist MPs from the Capitale-Nationale and Chaudière-Appalaches will now leave the caucus?"

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on April 18, 2023.