To quote an opening line from The Lone Ranger Show: “Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear.” Let us sally back to 1999, when it was announced that the pretzel known as the Dorval Circle would be replaced with only three – count them, three – overpasses. The improved pretzel would allow direct access between Highway 20 and Trudeau airport. Cost: $136 million. Delivery: 2001.
And after some moseying down that dusty trail, in 2005, it was announced that the project would cost $150 million. (What’s a few extra bucks among us trusting pigeons?)
Well, guess what happened in 2009? New plan. Same old. Cost: $224-million. Delivery: 2013. Only this time we needed eight overpasses. A local politician proudly announced, “They have already started. They are under tender for all the bridges now.” (Well we all know where this is going, don’t we? This was years before “tender” would become a dirty word in Montreal.)
In the summer of 2011, we got an update from the vultures engineering this train wreck: The cost will now be $350 million and the delivery will be 2017. TQ (Trough Quebec) blamed the delay on “the enormous complexity” of having 10 partners involved. (The operative word here is “partners.”)
In retrospect, do you honestly believe that we couldn’t achieve direct highway access to the airport without throwing up as many as eight overpasses? And why was it three originally?
I am an engineer. When we estimate the cost of anything from a machine to an entire manufacturing facility, we know exactly what it will cost and then add 3 per cent contingency for what may occur as unforeseen. In my 40 years of experience, we usually took that 3 per cent to profit, rarely needing it.
In our present civilization, there is enough data in all technical fields from donuts to roadwork, to establish precise cost curves. Our capitalistic system depends on such accuracy. It is the thing that insures corporate viability.
To make a simple point, draw an imaginary line from the Olympic Stadium debacle to the revelations of the construction collusion inquisition, and the Dorval Circle project plots perfectly in between. How could it not fit? Reason: What’s 3 per cent of $350 million? Of course, there’s the fat of bogus overruns to indulge in as well.
Was this really necessary? If easier access to the airport was the thing, I asked a West island politician back in 2009, why didn’t we just extend Fenelon Blvd.? His answer was both prophetic and disturbing for its time: “You don’t know much about politics do you?” I asked why, and he added, “There’s no money in it.”
A long time before the interchange went topsy-turvy with weekly lane switches and detours, the barbarians were at the gate, so to speak. The Dorval Circle is the love child of the whole toxic process that is being presently unravelled. But most anyone can figure that out.
I bring the obvious up not because of the huge waste of money (a given) but because of the unethical inconvenience to West Island drivers for the next five years – assuming no delays, ahem, ahem – as they are rerouted in all directions when work shifts from one elephant to another. That is the insult added to injury. Repairing existing overpasses and extending Fenelon would have taken obscenely less time and money. But what do I know?