Text signed by Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, and published in The Gazette.
February 20, 2013
Replacing the Champlain Bridge: the Board of Trade stands firm on its position
The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal’s position on replacing the Champlain Bridge remains unequivocal: building a new bridge as soon as possible is an absolute priority for Montréal citizens and the business community.
This link plays a crucial role in our economy and quality of life. A new bridge will be one of the cornerstones of a system that will enable the fluid circulation of people and merchandise. The congestion we are currently seeing in the metropolitan area has already affected our productivity and attractiveness.
The business community has four main concerns with respect to a new bridge:
1) The bridge must improve the movement of people and merchandise. Based on medium- and long-term needs projections, this means having at least three lanes on either side, two reserved bus lanes and a light rail transit right of way.
While the bridge structure falls under federal jurisdiction, public transit is a provincial and regional matter. As a result, it is the responsibility of the Government of Quebec and regional authorities to determine the most appropriate mode of public transit to meet the public’s mobility needs. It is also up to them to finance its implementation, even if this is done through joint financing agreements with the federal government.
Seeking such agreements must not delay the start of preparatory work. We instead ask the federal government to develop a global strategy for supporting public transit in major Canadian cities.
2) The bridge must be built as quickly as possible, according to a responsible budget. We are asking the federal government to target a timeline of six years for building the bridge, an ambitious but achievable objective.
The cost of the project is currently unknown, with estimates ranging from $3 billion to $5 billion. Whatever the amount, it cannot be drawn solely from public finances, and we understand that additional sources of revenue must be found. However, a study of major PPP projects in Canada shows that most benefited from a contribution from public authorities to reduce the amortization period.
As such, we are counting on the federal government to ensure that crossing the new bridge is affordable. And if a toll is required to get the new infrastructure built quickly, let’s go ahead with that.
3) If a toll is necessary, it must be affordable and limited to the new bridge. If the projected cost of the bridge makes a toll necessary, the revenue generated must be put to a single purpose: paying for the new bridge, using the principle of user-pay.
We should not place tolls on all bridges that surround the Island of Montréal. This would prompt citizens to abandon the downtown core, stifling the heart of the metropolitan area. While solid growth in the outskirts of the metropolitan area is a good thing, we must also ensure that the agglomeration centre remains dynamic.
4) This bridge must be a symbol for the city, Quebec and Canada, and its design must make it a Montréal landmark. On November 26, at the Rendez-vous 2012 – Montréal, Cultural Metropolis, we pointed to the importance of creating a Montréal landmark for generations to come. We ask the federal government to hold an international competition and invite top designers from around the world to work with local creators to submit proposals for the new bridge. This competition must be held on a tight budget and timeframe, and proposals must reflect the rigours of Quebec’s climate.
In this critically important matter for the Montréal metropolitan area’s economy, it is only natural to expect the federal government to commit to starting work as soon as possible. It has done so, and for that we applaud it.
We encourage everyone involved to work together to take action as soon as possible so that citizens of the metropolitan area, Quebec and Canada can benefit from a new cornerstone of their infrastructure.