By Justin Franz
LAC-MÉGANTIC, Que. — On the seventh anniversary of the Lac-Mégantic oil train disaster, the Quebec government announced that construction on a new rail bypass around the community will begin next year, the Montreal Gazette reports. On July 6, 2013, a runaway Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway oil train derailed and exploded in the heart of the small lakeside community, killing 47 people and leveling much of the downtown.
Since that day, townspeople have clamored for a rail bypass to take trains around the community. In early 2018, the Canadian government announced that it and Quebec would financially support much of the construction of the new 7.9-mile route that will go north into a more remote area before rejoining the Sherbrooke Subdivision west of town. The project is expected to cost $133 million Canadian. A spur off of the bypass will enable the railroad to continue to serve industries in the town. The new route is expected to open in 2022.
On July 6, the town is expected to open a new memorial dedicated to the victims of the disaster. The tribute sits on the site of the former Musi-Café, a trackside music venue where many of the victims died. A memorial service will be broadcast online to ensure social distancing and the Canadian Pacific has agreed to not run trains through the town all day.
The MM&A declared bankruptcy weeks after the derailment and in 2014 it was purchased by Fortress Investment Group, which created the Central Maine & Quebec. In 2019, CP purchased CMQ and the Class One assumed operations on the line in June.