The federal government needs to move as soon as possible to replace Montreal's aging Champlain Bridge, according to two Quebec NDP MPs and a McGill engineering professor, who held a news conference Monday.
The NDP's deputy transportation critic said his party has raised the issue in Parliament. He says they called the news conference to put pressure on the government.
Jamie Nicholls, the MP for Vaudreuil-Soulanges, was asked what more the NDP can do, given that Stephen Harper's Conservatives have a majority in Parliament.
"A majority position means that they are supposed to govern for all of Canada. If they're going to neglect Canada's second major city and its economic well-being, that's problematic. That's against their mandate that they've stated," Nicholls said.
Nicholls said lost productivity due to problems with the Champlain Bridge amounts to $2 billion a year.
McGill engineering professor Saeed Mirza said he's non-partisan — he just wants to see a new bridge announced as soon as possible.
"It should be done now, and I hope that the Conservative government does change its attitude in this area," Mirza said.
Putting off a Champlain Bridge replacement will only saddle future generations with debts for decades to come, he said.
Nicholls and Mirza were joined by NDP MP Hoang Mai, the member for Brossard-La Prairie, who said he has received hundreds of letters from residents in his South-Shore riding demanding a new bridge.
So far, federal Transport Minister Denis Lebel has only said the government is studying all options.
Among the options are a new bridge — with a $1.3-billion price-tag — or a $1.9-billion tunnel.
It is estimated that roughly $20 billion in international trade crosses the Champlain Bridge each year.
But recent engineering reports say the 49-year-old bridge is at risk of collapse and must be replaced soon.
"The Champlain Bridge is really a key piece in the economic engine of the greater Montreal area," said Mai.
"(But) it is not only an economic issue, it is a safety issue," he said.
Nicholls added that the NDP will be pushing the federal government to adopt longer-term thinking about Canada's infrastructure.
He said infrastructure projects have in the past been used to curry political favour instead of meeting the needs of future generations.