Projet Montréal mayoral candidate Valérie Plante is proposing a new, 21-kilometre métro line that she says would cost $5.9 billion to build.
The $280 million per kilometre price tag on this campaign proposal has been criticized as unrealistic by Plante’s rival for the mayoralty, Denis Coderre. In a news conference on Wednesday he said its party should remove its “rose-tinted glasses.”
Métro line construction, while contingent on local factors, tends to be a costly undertaking. How, then, does the Pink Line proposal compare to other subway projects?
When it opened in 2007, the 5.2 kilometre Laval métro extension came with a $745 million price tag. Adjusted for inflation, that comes to $167 million per kilometre.
In 2014, when making the case for an above ground extension to Montreal’s Blue Line, a spokesperson for Coderre said “a métro extension would cost $200 million per kilometre.”
The cost of the Pink Line can also be understood in the context of métro projects in other countries.
New York City recently opened the first phase of its long-awaited Second Avenue Subway. The transit writer Alon Levy estimates the project cost US$1.7 billion per kilometre, making it the priciest undertaking of its sort. Should it ever be completed, the second phase of the Second Avenue Subway is expected to cost in excess of US$2 billion per kilometre.
Even if the Second Avenue Subway represents the worst case scenario for costs, it is hardly the sole métro project with costs that dwarf the Pink Line proposal
London’s Jubilee Line Extension, which was built in the 1990s, cost £330 million a mile or, as one journalist wrote at the time, “the same as for each mile of the £10 billion Channel Tunnel.” In 2017 Canadian dollars, the project cost roughly $205 million per kilometre. Amsterdam’s North-South line, meanwhile, reportedly cost in excess of $400 million per kilometre.
The above examples come from cities that experienced serious delays or setbacks during the construction process. It’s impossible to know if a hypothetical Pink Line would run into similar challenges, but they are hardly unheard of in infrastructure projects.
It is not, however, unheard of for the bill for a new subway line to come in at something approaching Plante’s $280-million-per-kilometre figure for the Pink Line.
Singapore’s Circle Line, for instance, opened in 2011 with an average cost per kilometre of $241 million. (A proposed extension to the Circle Line, however, is expected to cost three times as much per kilometre.) Paris’s Line 14, for its part, cost about $286 million per kilometre when it was built between 1998 and 2003. Lines 9 and 10 of Barcelona’s métro system, meanwhile, cost in the region of $211 million per kilometre.