Lac-Mégantic rail bypass

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Contribution from the Governments of Canada and Quebec

The Government of Canada confirmed on May 11, 2018, that it would fund 60% of the construction costs of the Lac-Mégantic bypass, estimated at $133 million at the time. The Government of Quebec has confirmed that it will fund 40% of this amount. The project will be managed by Canadian Pacific Railway (CP), which acquired the Central Maine & Quebec Railway (CMQR) in December 2019. CP will also own the bypass.

Map of the Lac-Mégantic Bypass

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3D animated video of the Bypass

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Why this route?

The choice of the final route is based on numerous studies that were conducted during the project's feasibility phase, and on the proposed recommendation. The bypass route will be 12.5 km long. This section provides the full background on the selection of the current route.

Feasibility study

In 2015, the City of Lac-Mégantic mandated AECOM to carry out a feasibility study of the rail bypass project. The feasibility study was funded by the Governments of Canada and Quebec. In this context, a monitoring committee was formed, with representatives of the federal and provincial governments and the three municipalities.

The feasibility study was carried out in three phases. The first consisted of an opportunity study to identify potential corridors for a future rail line. The resort, submitted in 2016, identified and analyzed three potential corridors. At this stage, the monitoring committee selected Corridor 1.

During the second phase of the pre-planning (pre-planning studyFootnote 1 – City of Lac-Mégantic, French only), three variations on Corridor 1 were developed and assessed. In 2017, variation number 2 was selected by the monitoring committee. Four other variations were studied but were not selected.

The final route selected was communicated in the project funding announcement by the federal and Quebec governments in May 2018.

In 2020, the third phase of the study, the final pre-planning study, was completed. This step incorporated the data obtained from field surveys and geotechnical work, and specified the selected track profile in the chosen corridor.

In general, the following criteria were used to determine the bypass route:

  • Technical characteristics (geometry of the track and track slope)
  • Safety
  • Human environment (proximity to buildings and communities crossed)
  • Land planning (acquisition of permanent rights-of-way, affected and fragmented land)
  • Natural environment (crossing of waterways and wetlands)
  • Level crossings
  • Engineering works (necessary structures) and culverts
  • Cost

The selected route removes the rail right-of-way from downtown Lac-Mégantic and reduces the number of buildings near the railway. This route was recognized as the most advantageous one by the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur environnement du Québec (BAPE) and as having the least impact on agricultural land by the Commission de protection du territoire agricole du Québec (CPTAQ).

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. This component was announced by the Minister of Transport on August 28, 2019, and is in response to the request from the mayors and the community of Lac-Mégantic.

Options not selected

West of the Chaudière River, options passing to the north of Highway 161 were not selected, because they entailed greater safety risks given the additional crossing of Highway 161 required, as well as issued raised by the proximity to Lac de l’Orignal and emergency access.

East of the Chaudière River, options involving the route going on the other side of the mountain were not selected because they involved more excavation, entailing significant additional costs.

In September 2020, the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) concluded that the route selected was the most environmentally-friendly.

In November 2020, the Commission de protection du territoire agricole du Québec (CPTAQ) approved the acquisition of the agricultural lands necessary for the project and concluded that the selected route had the least impact on agricultural lands.

In 2021, a second application to CPTAQ was made for authorization to acquire a larger area of agricultural land than initially established.

The “half-bypass” option was often raised and requested by various groups, but was not study, because, while its route would avoid the Frontenac sector, it would pass close to downtown Lac-Mégantic.

The different corridors studied are illustrated on page 32 of the feasibility study produced by the City of Lac-Mégantic (Feasibility studyFootnote 1 – City of Lac-Mégantic, French only).

Key steps

The Government of Canada will continue to work with all stakeholders involved, including the Government of Quebec, the municipalities, and CP, until the construction of the bypass is completed. The steps of the project are:


  1. Geotechnical work (2018-19 and 2021)
  2. Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement (BAPE) consultations (summer 2019)
  3. Final feasibility study (summer 2020)
  4. Commission de la protection agricole du Québec consultation and report (summer 2020)
  5. Land acquisition process (2021-2022)

Ongoing and upcoming:

  1. Land acquisition process (2021-2023)
  2. Project approval process by the Canadian Transportation Agency (2021-2023)
  3. Start of construction (once regulatory approvals are received)

Following the commissioning of the bypass, the existing track will be dismantled.

Land acquisition

The Government of Canada needed to acquire properties, mostly parcels of land, to complete the Lac-Mégantic Bypass Project. These properties belong to 43 owners, including the Town of Lac-Mégantic. Transport Canada has mandated Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to acquire these lands.

The Government of Canada is committed to offering owners a fair and equitable value for their properties.

To facilitate discussions with the owners and assist them during the negotiation process and land acquisition, an office was opened in Lac-Mégantic, in the Service Canada facilities. Landowners can make an appointment to meet with federal government officials.

For more information about the land acquisition process, please contact PSPC at: 1-833-381-1630.

Expropriation process

The Government of Canada initiated an expropriation process in February 2023, to acquire the land needed to build the Lac-Mégantic rail bypass.

Before initiating the expropriation process, the Government of Canada attempted to reach an agreement with all affected landowners. It is in this spirit that the negotiation period with the landowners, which began in October 2021, was extended three times until January 13, 2023. However, for various reasons, the Government of Canada was unable to sign deeds of sale with all of the landowners.

The notice of intent to expropriate was published in the Canada Gazette on February 18, 2023. In accordance with the Expropriation Act, any person objecting to the expropriation must do so within 30 days of publication of the notice in the Canada Gazette.

Since at least one objection was received following the publication of the notice of intent to expropriate in the Canada Gazette, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement asked the Attorney General of Canada to appoint an investigator to hold a public hearing.

Opponents to the expropriation were given the opportunity to voice their opposition to the hearing officer, Me Julie Banville, at the public hearing held on May 4, 5, 8 and 9, 2023. On May 25, 2023, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement received the report from the hearing officer on the nature and reasons for the objections.

In accordance with article 13 of the Expropriation Act, considering the written requests received, please find below a link to the copy of the hearing officer’s report, as well as the statement of the grounds for rejection of the oppositions, in French and in English.

Request document

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Decision of Minister and Statement of Reasons

On June 14, 2023, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement confirmed her intention to expropriate. A copy of the confirmation notice was sent to each person affected by the expropriation and to any person who had served notice of opposition. An offer of fair and equitable compensation will subsequently be sent to all persons entitled to compensation.

Properties outside of the rail right-of-way

The land acquisition process will only be conducted for properties that are included in the railway right-of-way. For those properties adjacent to the bypass right-of-way, mitigation measures will be implemented to reduce the impact of the project. For example, noise abatement walls are planned to be built in certain locations along the bypass route. However, no financial compensation will be provided for properties located outside the bypass.


Crossings are planned to allow access to lots that will be cut in half by the bypass and become landlocked. These crossings may take different forms (grade crossings, tunnels) depending on their location.

Plans and specifications, construction and decommissioning of the existing track

CP is responsible for the plans and specifications and the construction of the bypass.

The plans and specifications phase also includes the completion of several studies, including soil and water quality, noise, vehicular traffic, fish habitat, private drinking water sources as well as archaeological inventories.

Once all necessary regulatory authorizations have been obtained, the construction phase of the bypass can begin on the lands acquired for the project.

The Government of Canada, in collaboration with the Government of Quebec, will implement monitoring mechanisms to ensure that the project meets the expectations and requirements for both levels of government. Transport Canada hired the engineering firm CIMA + to provide support for this purpose.

Once the bypass is in operation, the existing track between Nantes and Frontenac will be dismantled and transferred to Transport Canada. Decontamination work may be carried out depending on the intended use of the land. The Government of Canada intends to transfer these lands to the municipalities for public use.

Environmental assessments

The environmental assessment process led by the Ministère de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MELCC), including public hearings by the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement du Québec (BAPE), was completed in 2020.

As a result of this process, 138 mitigation measures [PDF, 639 KB]Footnote 3 (in French only) were identified and incorporated into the project to minimize the project's impacts on the community and its environment.

Transport Canada also conducted additional wildlife inventories in 2019 and 2020 to identify the presence of threatened species in the bypass corridor. As a result of these studies, additional mitigation measures have been added to the project to protect these species.

In addition, in the spring of 2021, Transport Canada initiated a federal environmental assessment process to ensure that all federal environmental components are identified. The process is underway and the adopted measures will be integrated into the project.


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