Thursday, June 23, 2011

Short sightedness

The end of the school year approaches and has not been made easier by the fact that our road infrastructure in Montreal is literally falling to pieces. Last week they had to close one of the four bridges to the south shore because the gussets which hold the steel beams together had rusted out. The next closest bridge is also under inspection/repair pretty much on a permanent basis since as they so euphemistically say it "has reached the end of its lifespan" (read it’s falling to pieces also). Add to that the Turcotte interchange where three highways congregate also has really big problems. They have closed some exits and reduced lanes on others because of safety concerns. They originally didn’t put in enough steel bar to solidify them so they are now falling apart. So to say the least, our island roads look pretty much 3rd world. Now add to that, that all traffic must cross onto the island to head westward because there is no ring road around Montreal to avoid the city (it’ll be finished late in 2012 maybe) and you have a recipe for chaos.
Now why is that? Well it’s pretty easy to understand. There has been massive underfunding of the upkeep and inspection of the roads and bridges for the last 50 years or more because the politicians don’t see those as being very sexy and politically advantageous. In the last 50 years we’ve spent money for the Olympics (we’re still paying for t he Olympic stadium), spent money on two referendums and all the feasibility studies that went with them, we are even now, as the roads and bridges are falling apart, spending 400 million on a new arena in Québec City so they can get a NHL hockey team. These are all nice to have, but they should be paid for, if and only if, there is money left over after having taken care of the essentials, such as roads, bridges, health care, education and all the other essential services.
Out society today needs lessons in pragmatism and in looking longterm. Our politicians can’t see farther than one or two years and the next popularity poll. I suppose that throughout human history it has been pretty much the same thing... « bread and circuses » as things fall apart around us.