Monday, March 21, 2011

Infrastructure leadership

A few shocking reads in modern day Canada, apparently one of the largest and most commercially significant bridges in Montreal, the Champlain Bridge, is in risk of partial collapse. From the Gazette:
La Presse this week obtained two federally mandated engineering studies. Here's what the studies concluded about the Champlain:

--There are concerns about the soundness of the bridge's beams, pillars and foundation, as well as for its capacity to carry heavy loads.

--Those safety concerns mean there is a risk that part of the bridge could collapse.

--The bridge would not with-stand a major earthquake.

--The bridge should be re-placed quickly.

--Though theoretically pos-sible, fixing the bridge would be too costly and cause too many major traffic problems.
That's putting it nicely. Read the cyberpresse link above, it's much more frightening (translated version). Newly appointed Conservative Senator Larry Smith announced some more federal funds on Friday, maybe because such media reports as those in La Presse were making the rounds.
Conservative Senator Larry Smith announced the repairs. He told reporters the bridge is safe.
Those federally mandated engineering studies carry a little more weight than Senator football. Repair money, a band-aid solution is not looking to be the answer. 

Begging the question of where the infrastructure leadership is these days. We have just been through Canada's Economic Action Plan, widely advertised to the nation by these Conservatives and which was all about infrastructure. Yet here we have a major infrastructure need staring the federal, provincial and municipal governments in the face. Every time you read an announcement like this one yesterday that has comparable variations across the country then consider the Pont Champlain...really makes you wonder what kind of legacy this action plan will really have. Infrastructure priorities should preferably be with the Pont Champlains, not with snowmobile trails or rinks of any kind in Quebec.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., they're looking at some interesting infrastructure ideas: "An independent, bipartisan board appointed by the president and Congress would choose the investments and oversee construction, audited by an inspector general and the Government Accountability Office." Maybe we should be considering Canadianized innovations like that too.