Quebec City, September 14, 2022 — Pending the release of studies by the government on the planned Third Link highway project between Lévis and Quebec City, Équiterre is unveiling the very first environmental analysis of the project. The climate test demonstrates that the Third Link, in its current form, is incompatible with Quebec’s objectives to combat the climate crisis, according to a recent analysis by Équiterre’s mobility expert, in collaboration with the Pôle intégré de recherche — Environnement, Santé et Société (PIRESS).
With the limited data available, the analysis assesses the project’s compatibility with four criteria for the ecological transition: greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and environmental footprint mitigation; adaptation and resilience; social justice and other co-benefits; and sound governance.
“Without data from the project developer, this qualitative analysis of the Third Link was based on a series of key agreed-upon principles of the ecological transition that take into account a range of potential impacts from the project. For the scientific community, the government’s studies and cost analyses must be made public as soon as possible,”
A failing grade for the project
The analysis is based on multiple criteria and the results are unequivocal: the Third Link gets a failing grade of 24 on 75, or 32%. The project is deemed mostly inconsistent with each of the four criteria evaluated.
“There is a scientific consensus around the fact that projects like the Third Link between Lévis and Quebec City have no place in a society that is working to tackle the environmental and climate crises. Knowing all the potential impacts of expanding our road capacity, it is inexcusable to continue ignoring the science and to put forward such projects,” explains Andréanne Brazeau, Mobility Policy Analyst at Équiterre.
Reducing GHG emissions and environmental footprint: 33%
The project would be hard pressed to place Quebec on the path to net zero, not only because of construction-related emissions but also because the vehicles using the Third Link would not be exclusively carbon-free for several decades. In addition to the enormous quantity of resources necessary for construction, the amount of waste from excavation would be astronomical.
Adaptation and resilience in the face of climate hazards: 17%
The Third Link scores poorly on this criterion, since it would exacerbate urban sprawl – especially in Lévis. This would mean a greater loss of natural environments and farmland, thereby threatening Quebec’s resilience in the face of the climate crisis.
Increased road capacity, which would necessarily lead to an increase in the number of vehicles on our roads (induced demand), creates a vicious cycle where we must allocate ever-increasing space to vehicles (parking lots, highways’ right-of-way, interchanges, streets, etc.).
Socioeconomic benefits: 39%
Among other issues, the central place given to the automobile in the latest version of the project exacerbates inequities, as well as health and safety issues, in addition to delaying improvements to multimodal transportation and increasing congestion in the Capitale-Nationale region over the long term.
There is nothing to suggest that the project would yield major economic spinoffs, despite its $6.5 billion price tag. What’s more, the cost of the tunnels has gone up by 35% on average, and construction delays are now the norm. Furthermore, for each dollar spent on automobile transportation in the province, Quebec society pays $9.20.
Sound governance: 22%
Hundreds of experts and scientists have decried the lack of opportunity/feasibility studies and of analyses on traffic needs and projections. This suggests a lack of rigour and transparency in how this project is being managed.
“The analysis is clear: the Third Link fails the climate test. If the government seeks to act coherently in addressing the climate crisis, the project cannot move forward”
Highway expansion is no longer a solution
“We need to rethink our modes of transportation and our land use practices. There are many viable solutions for traffic congestion problems, and the Third Link between Lévis and Quebec City is not one of them. The era of solo driving has passed. It is now time to make our transportation systems more sustainable and affordable, while creating safe and resilient living spaces. We need to devote our energy to finding solutions that work for our region,” says Alizée Cauchon, Senior Analyst, Government Relations at Équiterre.