Deal reached for Lac-Mégantic bypass lands

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by Emily Atkins

An agreement has been reached between the Government of Canada and the Town of Lac-Mégantic for the purchase of land to complete the rail bypass around the town.

The parcels of land are owned by the town. This agreement in principle will allow both parties to prepare the deed of sale.

The entire route has been identified to permanently get trains out of downtown Lac-Mégantic. The Government of Canada is working with the Government of Quebec, the Town of Lac-Mégantic, and the municipalities of Frontenac and Nantes to complete this project that will benefit the community.

The bypass route will be 12.5 km long. The selected route removes the rail right-of-way from downtown Lac-Mégantic and reduces the number of buildings near the railway.

The project involves the establishment of two yard tracks in the Lac-Mégantic industrial park to allow rail operations from Nantes and Frontenac to be relocated to that location, thereby maximizing rail safety.

“With this agreement-in-principle, we have taken another step towards the realization of this rail bypass, which will ensure that the existing rail line will permanently leave downtown Lac-Mégantic. We will continue the required process over the next few months to finalize the purchase of the land parcels,” said transport minister Omar Alghabra.

The construction of the bypass is part of the ongoing measures to ensure that a tragedy such as the derailment and fire in Lac-Mégantic on July 6, 2013, cannot happen again.

In that disaster, an unattended 73-car Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA) freight train carrying Bakken Formation crude oil rolled down a 1.2 percent grade from Nantes and derailed downtown, resulting in the explosion and fire of multiple tank cars. Forty-seven people were killed.

More than 30 buildings in Lac-Mégantic’s town centre, roughly half of the downtown area, were destroyed, and all but three of the thirty-nine remaining buildings had to be demolished due to petroleum contamination of the townsite.