By: John Symon – mtltimes.ca
Federal plans are continuing to light up Montreal’s Jacques-Cartier Bridge structure for an estimated $39.5 million. This is despite a change of government late last year; it was the Harper Conservatives who approved the bridge lighting plan, together with Montreal mayor Denis Coderre.
Lighting the Jacques Cartier Bridge is designed to celebrate Montreal’s 375th anniversary and the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017. Proponents talk about creating a visual icon that Montrealers can be proud of while detractors wonder what value there is in “the world’s costliest bridge lighting project.”
For clarity, we wrote Julie Paquet, Director of Communications for the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Corporation, a federal agency: “The illumination project is well underway, studies and design have been ongoing since fall 2015, and light installation will start shortly. The project is expected to be complete in time for Montreal’s anniversary, May 17, 2017 and be operational for at least 10 years.”
“The $39.5 million budget includes all costs for the concept, design, system purchases, execution, operations and maintenance for 10 years. It is still too early to calculate precisely the cost of electricity.”
Dorval resident Murray Levine is among those trying to stop what he sees as a huge waste of taxpayers’ money. “The system is a friggen joke,” Levine says. “The media is no better as they bitch about it but don’t ask questions. I know who authorized it as (former Minister of Infrastructure, Denis Lebel) told me that he did…”
Montreal is paying top dollar for the Jacques Cartier Bridge according to a list of 12 similar lighting projects around the world in The Montreal Gazette. While the average cost is 10 times less than the Jacques Cartier Bridge, that list also includes Toronto’s CN Tower and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The 2,431 metres John Blatnik Bridge in Duluth, MN seems the most similar to the 2,687m Jacques Cartier Bridge. The Blatnik Bridge had lighting installed in 2014 at a cost of $750,000 USD ($985,000 CDN).
We asked Paquet why costs are about 40 times higher to light up a bridge in Montreal versus Duluth. Her response, in part reads: “The project will cover the entire steel superstructure and the piers of the bridge. The illuminated area is considerably higher than other similar projects. Canada’s northern climate puts a strain on infrastructures: temperatures that can drop to -45 Celsius, strong winds above the river, snow and ice that add weight to the structure, road salt that may damage the equipment, etc. All of these are considered in the design, choice of lighting equipment and systems installation.”
The Blatnik Bridge crosses part of Lake Superior; like the Jacques Cartier Bridge, it is built high enough to accommodate ocean-going ships passing underneath. Duluth, at 46.8 N, is farther north than Montreal and endures long, cold, snowy winters according to Wikipedia.