09/20/2013 09:47 EDT | Updated 11/20/2013 05:12 EST

Montreal Metro's blue line to get major extension

Montreal’s Metro system is about to get its biggest and most expensive upgrade since the Laval extension.

The STM and the provincial government are expected today to announce the extension of the blue line east, to St-Leonard and Anjou.

Five more stops are expected to be added to the Metro line.

It isn’t the first time an extension of the blue line has been discussed.

The project has been studied for years, along with other possible Metro line extension scenarios.

In 2009, then-Quebec premier Jean Charest announced a similar plan to extend the blue line six kilometres east from St-Michel, currently the line’s easternmost terminal.

The five-kilometre extension of the orange line to Laval was announced in 1998 and completed in 2007 at a cost of $745-million — about $150 million per kilometre.

La Presse this morning reported the blue line extension would cost in the area of $225 million per kilometre.

Paul Micheletti, the owner of a business on Jean-Talon Street East and the president of the Jean-Talon East Commercial Development Committee, said he’s cautiously optimistic about the announcement.

“We’re excited,” he told Daybreak this morning. “At the same time, we’re realistic it’s not going to be done tomorrow morning.”

“Am I going to be in a wheelchair by the time it happens? I’m not sure,” he continued.

He said extending the Metro eastward to Anjou would help alleviate traffic on the Metropolitan and would help improve the economy by making it easier for people to move from west to east.

“If you want to develop the east and make it feasible for people to move around easily, I think the Metro is very important,” Micheletti said.

Ed Janiszewski, the mayor of Dollard-des-Ormeaux and a member of the STM’s board of directors, said the imminent extension of the blue line is not a matter of if, but when.

“Twenty years down the road, if we don’t build it, we’ll be sorry, because the costs will escalate,” he said.

Janiszewski said the blue line project is the most pressing extension of Montreal’s Metro system, but told Daybreak he wished the STM and the provincial government would move faster on extending service to the West Island.

He said because of the presence of Highway 40, there would be no one Metro line that could be extended to accommodate the entire West Island.

“You’d need a big loop to serve the whole West Island,” Janiszewski said.

He said the best option would be to change the Metro from rubber rails to steel rails, so that the metro could go outside as well.

“This is doable and it’s the only way we’ll ever get to see a Metro in the West Island in the next 20 or 30 years,” he said.

In 2010, the STM rejected a proposal from a Chinese company to build new Metro cars with steel wheels.