Lac-Mégantic memorial centre proposed for disaster site

A group of business owners are proposing a memorial centre at the site of the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in hopes it will draw tourists to the recovering town.

Plan hopes to draw tourists to town recovering from rail disaster that killed 47 and destroyed downtown core

Unsealed court documents state that no manual brakes were applied on any of the 72 oil-filled cars of the train which derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Que. last summer, killing 47 people. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

A group of business people are proposing a memorial centre at the site of the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in the hopes it will draw tourists to the recovering town.

The proposal includes a 400-seat theatre that would screen a multimedia reconstruction of the tragedy, which killed 47 people when a runaway train carrying crude oil derailed in the centre of the lakeside town and exploded last July.

Michel Duval says the group appreciates how sensitive the idea of using the tragedy to attract tourists might be in the town, but feels it would help revitalize the devastated downtown core and provided a much-needed financial boost.

Duval said the former World Trade Centre site in New York draws thousands of tourists, as does the site of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas.

It’s not clear how much the project would cost, but Duval says financial help from various levels of government would be necessary.

Inter-ministerial committee meets on Lac-Mégantic

Government assistance was pledged Monday for a feasibility study into options for rerouting freight train tracks away from Lac-Mégantic’s residential areas.

The pledge was announced by Quebec’s Municipal Affairs Minister Pierre Moreau at a news conference after the first meeting of a new inter-ministerial committee on Lac-Mégantic.

The committee was announced last week by the province’s new Liberal government, and brings together the various ministries of the provincial government working on Lac-Mégantic’s reconstruction.

Transport Canada, the Fortress Investments Group – the new owner of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic rail-line that runs through town – and the municipality of Lac-Mégantic are also involved with the group.

"We want the municipality of Lac-Mégantic to take the lead on the reconstruction and study. The Government of Quebec will be there to help its citizens,” Moreau said.  

The feasibility study will evaluate costs, placement and the volume and types of materials to be carried on the rerouted track, among other details.

The study is expected to cost $2.5-million.

This comes on the heels of an announcement earlier this week that business owners in Lac-Mégantic were pushing ahead with their own plans to build a detour track around the town.

The provincial government had initially expressed reservations about the proposal, which Lac-Mégantic Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche challenged.

Moreau said Monday that a feasibility study would now be accomplished by the end of the summer.

He also followed through on Roy-Laroche’s request that the Ministry of Health and Social Services be included in the inter-ministerial committee.

“The health and psychological well-being of residents affected by the tragedy have to be prioritized along with the economic and infrastructure redevelopment of Lac-Mégantic,” she told reporters on Friday.