Mayor pledges to restore the Quebec Bridge

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Photo: Mary White

With municipal elections imminent, Mayor Labeaume has promised to fight to restore Quebec's landmark bridge if he is re-elected. He is aiming to connect with the CN and its primary stockholder, Bill Gates.

Gates, the mighty founder of Microsoft, has over 5% of the company's stock, a fact that the mayor plans to turn to Quebec's advantage. The Canadian National is the present owner of Quebec City's engineering marvel which stands as the longest cantilever bridge in the world.

"For me, the bridge is part of my agenda for after the elections," announced Labeaume, whose concern is echoed by Bloc Québécois Louis-Hébert deputy Pascal-Pierre Paillé. Paillé has proposed that the federal government buy back the bridge for a symbolic $1 so that work may re-begin. Restoration had begun but was halted in 2006 over legal battles between Ottawa and the CN.

Paillé says this sale is the only solution. It would allow a necessary $95 million investment into the delayed repairs. Only 40 per cent of the initial painting project to cover massive rusting has been completed; lighting remains an issue, and, like all of Quebec's roads and structures, repairs might well be called for.

In a telephone interview from Ottawa, Paillé generously explained his vision to the QCT. "The motion was officially tabled yesterday (Monday) in the House of Commons," said Paillé, "and if there are no elections, it will be debated."

"I am very proud to be the first person, to my knowledge, to table a motion to advance the project of the Quebec Bridge in the House of Commons." Paillé believes that the bridge is important to Quebec City for many reasons and he hopes to conquer the Commons with strong arguments defending the role of the bridge in Quebec's national capital.

"It is an important part of our history. It is part of our economy, transportation and international visibility." The Bloc leader is fulfilling his electoral promise to save the bridge and has been actively researching the issue for a few years.

"It is the gateway to the city," he says. "People talk a lot about it. It's important for them. It is an historic, international monument of civil engineering."

Twenty-nine thousand vehicles cross the bridge daily. Originally built as a means of train transportation between the city's north and south shore, it has now become an indispensable means popular transportation.

Since 1993, it has had three lanes plus the CN train track which function at full capacity.

"We can't leave it in its present condition," says Paillé. Safety may not be an immediate issue but "we can not continue to wait." Lebeaume agrees.