Lac-Mégantic businesses plan detour track within two years
Provincial politicians reluctant to commit, saying project is complicated and expensive
Business people in Lac-Mégantic are pushing ahead with plans to build a detour track within two years, that would take freight trains around the town.
According to calculations by engineer Yves Vallières, a 13-kilometre bypass would cost about $50 million.
However, the plan excludes costs related to environmental studies and purchasing the land.
Provincial politicians are reluctant to commit — saying the project is complicated and expensive.
Ghislain Bolduc, the MNA for Lac-Mégantic, said he doesn't understand how the local business people reached a $50 million figure for a detour track.
Bolduc said the province estimates the cost would be closer to $150 million.
“The estimate that they're coming up with is well-below what our expert estimated as a minimum,” said Bolduc.
Political officials also said that if Lac-Mégantic gets a detour track, hundreds of municipalities with train crossings will also demand one.
"There are 500 other towns and cities that have tracks within their boundaries," said Quebec's municipal affairs minister Pierre Moreau. "If the goverment responds one way for Lac-Mégantic, will that be an iniquity for all the other municipalities?"
Those planning to rebuild after the derailment that decimated Lac-Mégantic's downtown core said the detour is not optional.
“Who is able to put money to build a new hotel, or a new cinema in downtown if we have a train near the building?” said Béland Audet, owner of the Logi-Bel storage company.
Lac-Mégantic mayor disappointed
Colette Roy-Laroche said she has made two official requests for a feasibility study to find out how much it would cost to have trains bypass the devastated town.
"I was greatly surprised and disappointed to hear the municipal affairs minister's comments ... We are only asking that our railway be as safe in Lac-Mégantic as in other municipalities," Roy-Laroche said.
The section of track leading into town is the steepest outside of the Rockies, and Roy-Laroche says the Transportation Safety Board has established that was an aggravating factor in the deadly derailment.
She also added that when 44 people died in the 1997 Les Éboulements bus accident, the province didn't blink before spending $26 million on a new highway.