Monday, August 8, 2011

Stop Worrying! ... Montreal Should Embrace its Crumbling Infrastructure

I've always been impressed by the images of those cool and collected soldiers in Humvees driving the dusty and dangerous roads of Afghanistan or Iraq.
Faced with the ongoing risk of being ambushed or being blown up by an IED, they display a sang-froid, that is unnerving, as they joke and kid around while barrelling down the road, running a dangerous gauntlet.  

For Montrealers, its getting to that same point, where drivers have to face down and ignore the fear that they may not come home at night, victim of a collapsed bridge, overpass or tunnel. Although the chance of being the unfortunate sap that gets killed in an infrastructure disaster is microscopic, we cannot help but fantasize over the nightmare, it's human nature.
It's the opposite side of the coin of the dream that we all share of winning the Lotto and striking it rich- not likely to happen as well.
Like terrorism, the real damage is the fear, which isn't commensurate to the actual risk.

Most of Quebec's road system was built in the sixties and seventies with second class materials, shoddy workmanship and inferior engineering and so, just about every road, bridge and tunnel is in need of replacement.
Given the magnitude of the problem and the utter inability of our government to deal with any sort of problem in a timely and effective manner, it's pretty clear that things will get worse before they get better.

Perhaps it's time to get over the fear and accept the reality.

After so many failures and mishaps, maybe we should just come to terms with the fact that our bridges and tunnels will fall down every now and then and that actually, it's not that big a deal!

Over the last decade, less than ten people have died in such accidents, a pittance on any measuring scale.
By my humble calculations that represents a risk of about one in eight million per year for each of us Quebeckers.
The chances of getting killed by lightning is more than twice as likely, but you don't hear people freaking out about that or demanding that the government act to mitigate the risk, do you?

The sound approach is to fix up our bridges and roads when they actually break down or collapse, rather than undertake a massive and costly rebuilding project that will impoverish us all.
If we must suffer a death or two a year, so be it, it's acceptable. After all, can you justify the government spending billions and billions to save one or two lives a year?
The money could be put to better use and be far more effective if spent on the health system where the return on spending would be exponentially higher! 

Like the soldiers in the Humvees, let's put the tiny risk in perspective and ignore the minuscule chance that we might get flattened like a pancake in a tunnel collapse. Once we conquer this fear, we can look to the positive aspects of the situation and as the old saying goes "when life hands you lemons, make lemonade"

So readers, let's look at the bright side and the profit potential of our crumbling infrastructure.


Truth be told, we are all riveted by a good train wreck, car accident or falling bridge. The recent collapse of the Ville-Marie tunnel has been the talk of the town.
The government should cash in.
An official agency should be created to maximize returns on each disaster. As soon as a bridge or tunnel collapses, the government should set up a perimeter and charge gawkers for the privilege of seeing what's going on.  Once the dead and wounded are removed, tours can be arranged at premium prices where those with big bucks can actually explore the scene of the tragedy.
Newspapers and television coverage would be restricted to the media that paid for the privilege of covering the event exclusively, somewhat in the style of the Olympic games where rights are auctioned off beforehand.
The bus driver thought it was just a puddle!

Helicopter tours and double decker buses can all be employed to get tourists close to the action......for a price.

For a modern touch, rescue workers, police and engineers could be miked up and followed by cameras for a massive pay-per-view realty show event.
A premium cable channel could be created where subscribers could get first-hand coverage and in-depth analysis of each week's infrastructure disasters. For those who don't think there's enough content, they don't know Montreal very well.

Last week, the Ville Marie tunnel collapse was justifiably the center of media focus, but there were several other note-worthy and interesting events including a bus falling into a massive pothole and a giant sinkhole opening up in the middle of the street because a 120 year old pipe burst. A garbage truck fell into a pothole and then there was the building crane that fell into the middle of St. Denis street.
Need I go on?
Disaster Tourism
Some disaster sites should be preserved in their falling down state. They would become massive tourist attractions that could attract people from around the world. Five well-preserved sites would make Montreal the disaster capital of the world and the premier vacation destination of the morbid (there's plenty of those!)
Who needs to see the ruins of Acropolis when you can come to Montreal and see so much more.

The whole city could become one big disaster scene. For example, a viewing platform over the L'Acadie underpass could be set up to accommodate tourists. When conditions are just right in the summer, tickets could be sold for big bucks to watch the underpass fill up with rainwater, trapping the hapless motorists in their cars. Great fun!

Adventure Tourism
Some tourists like a little danger in their vacation choice. No need to go to the jungles of South America or Borneo, Montreal can become the first urban danger zone in the world, where the actual city itself becomes a dangerous obstacle course.
Special attractions could be offered to tourists including a helmet-less Bixi ride through the potholed streets of the city. To make matters more challenging the city could cease to fix potholes to make the experience more exciting.

For those tourists who are more of the voyeur nature and who enjoy watching others take a good pratfall, a reviewing stand or a live television feed could be set up in front of a classic pothole, where they can take pleasure from the misfortunes of others and can get their sadistic fill to their heart's content.

Great entertainment potential!

Of course a Museum of Disasters could be set up in the Old Port of Montreal, which would no doubt be a big attraction. Artifacts from all the great Montreal disasters could be displayed and interactive models of collapsing tunnels and bridges could be provided.

Montreal can tap into tourist desire for live entertainment. There's already a musical written about the bridge collapse in Laval called Sexy Beton. During the peek tourist season, each summer, the play can be staged a la "Anne of Green Gables" becoming an important element of the Montreal's disaster tourism business. 

All  this would make Montreal one of the most attractive tourist destinations, attracting people from around the world and generating hundreds of millions of dollar a year in revenue.

Now I understand that there are Doubting Thomas' out there who will say that the benefits don't outweigh the drawbacks, with the reduced mobility the big bugbear.

With a little ingenuity and by honing our driving skills, we can get by with a lot less bridges, traffic lights, underpasses and stop signs.
It seems to work in India.

Check this accidents and traffic keeps moving!

And before I get a slew of complaints, that friends, is what we call  "gallows humour."


  1. Editor: I don't know if you're being sincere or facetious, and I find that very scary! Trouble is, you're giving the Quebec government very dangerous ideas in cost-benefit analysis. Worse yet, you have me worried it's going to catch on here in Ontario and elsewhere. Don't condone decades of incompetent Quebec governments and their corrupt and shoddy construction industry reasons to make this sort of thing the norm! PUH-LEEZE!

  2. What worries me more is the redesigning and the rebuilding on the infrastructure in Quebec then they way it already is.

    The L'acadie circle on the metropolitain, is more complicated and floods after the redesign and rebuild that was to "resolve" the issues.

  3. This is quite an old news, but in the light of the tunnel collapse and the reaction from our provincial government, I think it is relevant. Just to highlight the competence between Ottawa and Quebec City.

  4. Just another reason to stay out of Kebec folks, I love it. Along with decades of racist, anti- English language, Nazis like language laws a la bills 22, 178, 101…

    Rot in hell Kebec.

  5. I was speaking to someone who took a recent trip with his wife to Boston and Montreal from Ontario. She is a civil engineer, and she was shocked at the contrast in the state of the infrastructure in these two cities. She said that the road infrastructure in Montreal is comparable to that found in many Third World countries.

  6. After seeing recent events unfold, dare I say it, Quebec IS a part of the third world. And I'm completely serious about that statement.

    Not just the condition of our crumbling roads, bridges, overpasses and buildings, but the vast corruption behind it that goes unchallenged. Look at the comments from the transport Quebec minister, or Jean Charest. No one is responsible? Refusing to even share past reports with the public or media?

    Think long and hard about the state of our hospitals, critical shortage of doctors, ER wait times exceeding 30 hours and NO ambulance paramedics. Or Quebec as the puppy mills capital of North America and slap-on-the-wrist fines (or none at all!) for abusing and torturing animals. The racist language laws and attitudes of the Quebecois people, language police and distorted Quebec "history lessons" taught to children in schools. The government banning not only the free and unrestricted use of English, but an embargo-ban on English toys and software. Or blocking English website (much like China does) because a company is operates only in English. Just think of all the mass corruption, on all levels, from all sides: government, construction, police, mayor, etc, etc.

    It all adds up to third world, and that is what Quebec now is ladies and gentlemen.

  7. @Apple IIGS

    Vous avez les idées noires,je crois que vous devriez consulter votre médecin.Il vous conseillera probablement d'aller visiter vos amis du Vermont qui ont une pensée positive.

    Lien français:

    Aussi,je propose aux Ontariens de suivre le modèle adopté par nos amis américains.

  8. "Refusing to even share past reports with the public or media?"

    It'd be nice if WikiLeaks took up interest in this province.

  9. "It'd be nice if WikiLeaks took up interest in this province"

    Je crois que les gens wikiLeaks sont déja très occupés avec le cas Harper et sa façon de contrôler les médias.

  10. Well, it is quite obvious that Quebec has a number of problems. Of course, are they not superior with their french (joual) language and above the Rest of Us in Canada. That is what they actually think when in fact every thing they do is substandard and had to be s subsidized by others ( equalisation payments). They like the French, even though the real French don't like them. Of course, look at the situation in France right now with out of control debt. Others have said, they (Quebec) are a third world region at best which is likely true. There is really nothing positive about Quebec considering the neglect of their infrastructure, draconion laws which are discriminatory and the crime which the politicians have been associated with. Despicable, at best. Time for Canada to save itself and say goodbye to Quebec so to avoid paying for problems not created by hard working Canadians. In short, Quebec is a cesspool of bigotry and false entitlement. See u later a-holes.

    A taxpayer in the ROC.

  11. "Time for Canada to save itself and say goodbye to Quebec..."


    Je vous ferez remarquer que la France est un des seuls pays d'Europe a avoir toujours sa cote de crédit AAA avec l'Allemagne.Contrairement aux américains.

  12. " to avoid paying for problems not created by hard working Canadians."

    Good one dude!Hahahahahaha!

  13. @ Anon. aka Press 9:

    "Je vous ferez remarquer que la France est un des seuls pays d'Europe a avoir toujours sa cote de crédit AAA avec l'Allemagne.Contrairement aux américains."

    It has been reported recently that France is at risk of losing its AAA credit rating as well.

  14. @ Anon. on Aug. 10 at 9:58 PM,

    What point are you trying to make with the Statscan link? The fact is that Quebec remains a welfare province that is dependent on handouts from other wealthier Canadian provinces. The former premier of Quebec, Lucien Bouchard, said himself that the Quebecois do not work as hard as English-speaking Canadians or Americans.

  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  16. @anon 3:07

    Lucien Bouchard?...Ha oui,celui qui travaille maintenant pour power corp?Désolé,plus aucune crédibilité au Québec.

  17. "What point are you trying to make with the Statscan link?"

    Que le taux de chômage du Québec est actuellement inférieur a celui de la Colombie Britannique,de l'Ontarion et des provinces maritimes.

    Voir tableaux 3 et 4 (liens au bas de page)

  18. @ Anon. at 5:32 PM,

    "Que le taux de chômage du Québec est actuellement inférieur a celui de la Colombie Britannique,de l'Ontarion et des provinces maritimes"

    Quebec is STILL a have-not province. The economies of BC and Ontario have been hard hit by the recent economic downturn, but these provinces pumped billions of dollars into Quebec for decades.