Thursday, 22 November 2007

More roads for Montreal: Who Will Profit?

Le Devoir’s environmental reporter has hit the jackpot this week. In stories on Tuesday and Wednesday he raised more serious questions about a controversial freeway extension and bridge leading north from Montreal, Autoroute 25 and today he’s blown the cover on Macquarie Group, the Australia-based firm which appears to be the major player in the consortium that will own the stretch of roadway.

Wednesday Francoeur reported that significant details including the name of the project promoter were blacked out of the contract for a Public Private Partnership before it was presented to the provincial legislative assembly in October. Tuesday he had an analysis of the basic idea of a the PPP, done by Pierre Hamel, a professor at the Unversité de Québec research think tank, (l’Institut national de la recherche scientifique) showing that no money will be saved by building the road this way. Today's story shows that Macquarie, operating through its North American affiliates and some apparently indepedent Quebec firms, will build and then own the autoroute extension for 35 years.

This last news is something that didn't surprise me because when the story of the PPP broke in September, I remember a reference to Macquarie being Australian on the English-language website promoting the project. When I checked last night the reference had disappeared, but apparently I wasn't the only one because at the time Jean Catudal's The Trucking Blog asked some pointed questions about which flag would fly over the bridge

The city of Montreal is decidedly lukewarm to the idea of the extension, arguing what’s needed is more public transportation, not more highways leading in to the city. The current Liberal government (not very liberal at all in many respects) is pushing the PPP idea for what seem to be ideological reasons.

At the same time the city has just announced improvements to another entrance to the city, the nine kilometer long Notre Dame Boulevard, which will be widened to become a “green urban boulevard friendly to public transit, bicycles and pedestrians,”

We shall see what we shall see.

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