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The Plante administration said the Bellechasse depot could be constructed underground for the same price as an above-ground facility.

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The final cost of Montreal’s new underground bus depot is now expected to be more than double its initial price tag, members of city council learned at their monthly meeting on Monday.

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Council is being asked to approve increasing the loan bylaw for the project to $579.9 million. In 2017, the board of directors of the Société de transport de Montréal authorized a loan bylaw of $249.7 million for the construction of the Bellechasse Transport Centre, at de Gaspé Ave. and Bellechasse St., to replace the nearby St-Denis Transport Centre that was built in 1957. The city said the new centre, which would take up two entire city blocks, would have a capacity of 207 buses.

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The administration of Mayor Valérie Plante decided in 2018 to bury the Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie bus depot three storeys underground to lessen negative effects on the surrounding neighbourhood. The submergence would mean less visual pollution in the heavily populated neighbourhood, the administration said at the time. It also said that burying the facility could be done for the same price first estimated for an above-ground multi-storey garage.

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In April 2020, the loan bylaw was increased to $365.9 million and construction was supposed to be completed in December 2021. The end date was revised this past June from March 2024 to August 2024.

A civil service report accompanying the resolution for the new increase says the “new underground concept led to unforeseen additional costs, due to unforeseen ground conditions.” Consolidation work was required on the rock to “ensure a safe and lasting foundation for the perimeter tunnel,” it says.

Work on the steel structure was delayed due to the unforeseen rock consolidation work, it says. It adds that steel delivery was disrupted between June and September 2021.

This past February, Montreal’s inspector general’s office concluded the STM had committed “grave and serious” breaches of contract tendering rules in the awarding contracts for the construction of the Bellechasse Transport Centre. The irregularities would have justified the cancelation of the contracts, inspector general Brigitte Bishop said. But it was too late to do that, she said, because the work had already been done.

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“The project to replace a bus garage wasn’t ambitious enough. When they came to power, Projet Montréal took themselves for urban planners and architects … presenting a new concept for an underground garage, all without even doing feasibility studies on the quality of the soil and the rock,” Ensemble Montréal Christine Black said during the councillor question period at Monday’s council meeting.

Ensemble Montréal says its members plan to vote against the new loan bylaw.

Projet Montréal councillor Éric Allan Caldwell, who is chairperson of the STM, said that because the shale is friable it added “considerable” additional technical challenges. He added that the inspector general’s report caused the STM to pause the project, which added to the delay.

“This centre is essential,” Caldwell said.

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    Montreal’s underground bus depot doubles initial price

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