Lac-Megantic residents upset over losing land to new railway track project
Ottawa and Quebec are splitting the bill for new railway tracks around Lac-Megantic, but not everyone is happy.
Replacing the existing line will cost $133 million dollars. Ottawa will pay 60 per cent, while Quebec will pick up the remaining 40 per cent.
Once the line is operational, trains will no longer go through downtown Lac-Megantic. They’ll be routed north around the town.
There have been calls for the tracks to be replaced since July 7, 2013 when a runaway train rolled into town. It derailed and exploded, killing 47 people and destroying much of the downtown core.
The announcement was made in a vacant lot that was once the site of a downtown grocery store, just a few hundred metres from the derailment.
“Today we are taking steps to try to heal the wounds of a community that has been through so much,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The new route will cut through forest and farmland. According to the Federal Transport Minister, Marc Garneau, expropriation talks will begin immediately.
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Ronald Savoie is one of 44 property owners who will be affected. His farm has been in his family for generations. He already lost part of the land to a roundabout north of his home. The new tracks will be just to the south. He’ll be caught in between both.
Savoie says the tracks should stay where they are.
“People built their homes around trains,” he says. “Around the tracks. They shouldn’t be moved.”
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About 20 protesters who will lose land to expropriation showed up with placards at the announcement. The Prime Minister says the situation is emotional, but that this was what most people in the town wanted.
“There’s no question there are going to be people impacted when you move a rail line,” said Prime Minister Trudeau. “Any path is going to have consequences on some individuals, and any other path is going to have consequences on other individuals and landowners.”
There is hope that moving the tracks will help the town’s recovery.
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A recent study found young people in Lac-Megantic are twice as likely as the rest of the province to have anxiety or suicidal thoughts
“I grew up beside the train tracks,” said Jerome Tremblay. “I didn’t hear the trains, but ever since that incident I hear it. It makes us shake.”
Residents will still be hearing the trains for a few years. Construction on the new line will begin in 2019 and be completed by 2022.
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