West Islanders are ready to ride the rails

The Réseau express métropolitain (REM) light rail will service the West Island in 2023

Montreal’s $6.5 billion public transit project, the Réseau express métropolitain (REM), is set to change the way Montrealers commute to work. But even as the light rail’s construction makes significant progress, West Island residents are concerned about accessibility.

This project broke ground in April 2018 and is expected to begin operation in 2021, extending to Brossard on the South Shore. This driverless light-rail system will consist of 26 stations in the Greater Montreal area, spanning 67 kilometres and directly connecting to the city’s metro system.

In 2023, the REM will start operating on the West Island, whose residents are unsatisfied with the current state of public transportation.

Mayor of Pointe-Claire John Belvedere told The Concordian that “Current service is unreliable, since there’s not enough buses on weekends and at nighttime. The STM is overlooking an entire transportation system here in Pointe-Claire.”

With trains running 20 hours a day, Pointe-Claire residents will be able to reach downtown Montreal in just over 20 minutes. This means commute times for the West Island will be cut at least by half.

However, the entire journey may not be particularly convenient. Belvedere says his municipality is concerned about the accessibility of its future stations: Fairview-Pointe-Claire and Des Sources.

“The roads leading to our REM stations — Saint Jean Boulevard and Sources Boulevard — [are] not pedestrian-friendly, and it’s inconvenient for cyclists to use them,” said the Mayor.

On top of that, residents are worried about the lack of parking spaces at the stations. Nearly 6,000 parking spots have been removed from the initial REM plans, affecting the West Island in particular.

Driving to Kirkland and Pointe-Claire stations could be especially problematic, as the two stations currently have zero planned parking spaces dedicated specifically to future REM commuters. In 2016, however, the two stations were promised to have a 2,000-car capacity combined.

Belvedere said his residents had many more complaints regarding parking than the construction process itself. This weekend, the installation of overground tracks will lead to the closure of Highway 40 westbound near Pointe-Claire. This inconvenience does not seem to significantly disturb the locals, however.

Instead, some have raised concerns over the cost of the entire light-rail project. In fact, Parti Québécois spokesperson Alain Therrien called the REM “a waste of taxpayer money.”

Taxpayers will not be covering the entirety of the project’s $6.5 billion cost. The Caisse de dépôt placement du Québec, Canada’s second-largest pension fund, is contributing $3.2 billion for the light rail’s construction.

The federal and Quebec governments will also be investing $1.283 billion each, thus evenly dividing the funding responsibility.

According to Belvedere, the REM’s potential benefits are worth such a significant financial commitment. He explained that the light rail project would increase the home values in the West Island area and attract more business.

“If you’re a business in Pointe-Claire, you can even have employees living downtown and easily commuting to the West Island. It won’t be a one-way commute anymore, where our residents mostly commute downtown for work.”

The REM is indeed expected to create more jobs for Montrealers, having promised 34,000 employees involved in the construction process as well as 1,000 permanent positions in maintaining the light rail.

West Islanders will have to wait until 2023 for the project to become a reality. The good news is that despite COVID-19, elevated tracks are being actively built along Highway 40, and the project as a whole is progressing according to schedule.

“The REM will be a fabulous system, and it’s something that our people have wanted for years. Now it seems like we’re finally getting it,” said Belvedere.

Photo by Christine Beaudoin


Happening in and around the white Cube this week…

Can construction and art overlap?

I’ve always been obsessed with abandoned and dilapidated buildings in “safe” neighbourhoods, and the way construction sites just pop up out of nowhere, only to leave a big mess. Nothing is more beautiful to me than a building’s skeleton up against a flat blue sky. I walk around the city taking photos of the tops of buildings against such a blue sky, sometimes I turn them into drawings, but I’ve never really thought about it much.

Last week, I was walking up the stairs in the library to return a book and was taken aback by what I thought was construction taking place on the wall facing the stairs, where people tend to sit on the floor and finish their uncovered drinks and snacks. I noticed that it was in fact, not a two-person construction crew, but a conservation team updating the public art piece that extends from LB’s lobby throughout the building.

But what made this seem like construction? It could have been a performance piece. You never really know unless you talk to the artists.

Not long afterwards, I was passing by the FOFA Gallery in the EV building and noticed they were installing the new exhibition. Large pieces of drywall leaned against the vitrine and the floor was covered in plastic and spotted with buckets. A team was busy working away, patching walls and removing the old work. I thought about how interesting that was, them installing in the vitrine. They could be the art.

I wasn’t too far off with this. As a couple days later, I passed by again and noticed the large slabs (now covered in pink sludge,) plastic and buckets were still there, and the gallery was open.

It didn’t take me long to accept the piece as an ingenious—although highly wasteful—installation. The slabs of drywall were bare before. The pink sludge was spread across the surface specifically for this work. Would the artist reuse these panels in another exhibition? What would happen to the pieces?

MFA student, Lauren Chipeur’s s e e p a g e / s u i n t e m e n t came to be from a similar wavelength. After a happy accident in her studio, when Chipeur’s fridge leaked onto a material exploration, the artist began her infatuation with the removal (and spread) of one substance with another.

I like this kind of process-based work, when the act of making and that of installing becomes a performance in and of itself. And there is no good reason it shouldn’t be. (I later found out that Chipeur’s installation seeped out through the vitrine and into the carpet on the other side—amazing. And her website is still under construction, also very on brand here.)



Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

Hidden sculpture on Mackay & Maisonneuve?

We’re all familiar with the magnificently mesmerizing sculpture outside of the Hall building. If you haven’t stopped to stare at it while it’s moving, I really recommend that you do. But that isn’t what this is about.

On the opposite corner, on Mackay St. and De Maisonneuve Blvd., nestled between the construction and M4 Burrito, is another sculpture, one that I didn’t really know existed until I read the sign covering it, protecting it from the adjacent construction. Although this sculpture doesn’t move, it is home to a clock!

Commissioned by the Bank of Montreal in 1966 to “beautify an air vent” connected to the metro, Claude Théberge’s untitled sculpture completely blends into the environment, even when it isn’t hidden for its own protection.

Théberge also has similar mural-sculptures at De l’Église metro and Viger Square, as well as several other 2D works around the city. All three pieces are made from concrete, which was poured into styrofoam moulds to determine their shape. The slabs are carved with funky geometric designs reminiscent of cubist paintings.

This untitled wall was likely only erected to decorate the surrounding area, which is filled with people bustling to and from the university’s buildings, hardly noticing its presence.

Concordia is home to many such artworks from local artists and alumni, faculty and staff. Among these are Geneviève Cadieux’s metallic leaves on the exterior of JMSB, Holly King’s chromatic print in the tunnel to the EV building from the metro entrance, which is commonly mistaken for a painting, and the bronze busts in the Hall building’s ground floor.

According to Art Public Montréal, public art is intended to be discrete, “affirming their formal, conceptual or temporal characteristics,” and can be found permanently installed outdoors and indoors in common areas, typically in relation to or in contrast with the surrounding environment.

While public art does play a role in decorating the city, and our campus, what’s the point of art that blends in? What then, differentiates public art from good architectural and urban design? 


What students should know about the asbestos situation in the VA building

What students should know about the asbestos situation

Walking through the halls of Concordia’s VA building, one might notice small red stickers warning students about asbestos contamination along the walls. It is no secret that asbestos is a topic of conversation among those who frequent the building, but what can students do to ensure they are not in any danger?

“The general message is, if there’s a sticker on the wall you shouldn’t be touching [it],” said Lina Filacchione, Manager of Industrial Hygiene and Prevention at Concordia University, during an asbestos awareness information session last Thursday. “Our goal is to inform you how to live safely and interact safely within the space.”

But what exactly is asbestos, and what are the associated risks? According to Health Canada, asbestos is a naturally occuring fibre most commonly used prior to the 1990s, primarily for insulation and fireproofing. Asbestos products generally consist of vinyl floor tiles, ceiling tiles, plaster, and cement. Since being classified as a carcinogen, a substance that can cause cancer, in the late 1980s, its use has been discontinued.

In order for asbestos to become a health risk, it must be disturbed by, for example, hammering into an asbestos-infested wall. Undisturbed, asbestos is not a health risk. Primary routes of exposure include ingestion and inhalation. However, as there is a lot of interaction within the building, it’s important to take safety precautions when working within the space.

“In the VA, vermiculite containing asbestos is present in exterior perimeter and some interior walls,” said Filacchione, noting that vermiculite contaminated with asbestos resembles cat litter.

Other materials in VA that can contain asbestos are floor tiles, mechanical insulation, and plaster.

“There are no symptoms for asbestos exposure [and there] are no reactions,” said Filacchione, adding that increased exposure can lead to an increased risk of developing illness, such as respiratory problems.

So what safety measures is the university taking to ensure students’ health and safety? Filacchione said Concordia does a lot of monitoring for asbestos. One of the precautions is routine monitoring, which consists of taking 12 samples per year in a specific location.

“We’re starting to do more [monitoring],” Filacchione said, noting that in the past, the university was only conducting six tests per year, solely where there was vermiculite. “We thought it was important for the community to report concerns.” Filacchione added that generally, any substance resembling vermiculite and pooling along the floors and windows is most probably asbestos.

Students are advised to not attempt to clean up any questionable materials by themselves, but instead, to contact a supervisor.

“The real risk is when you’re manipulating materials,” said Filacchione. “Do not attempt to stop the work, but you can ask questions and let security know.”

Students looking to get more information or to report concerns can contact Concordia University Environmental Health and Safety at 514-848-2424, ext. 4877 or

The next asbestos awareness information session will be taking place on Wednesday, January 15, at 5:30 p.m. in VA 232. Further information can be found by visiting


Photo by Cecilia Piga. 


Montrealers face their worst nightmare: construction under the snow.

Twenty centimetres of snow made traffic worse than usual last week in Montreal.

Concordia students depend heavily on the 105 bus to get to and from the Loyola campus. When it begins to snow, their usual method of transit gets way more complicated. On Nov. 11 and 12, Montreal received 20 centimetres of snow.

“I almost died yesterday,” said Huda Hafez, a student at Concordia University. “There was a big pile of snow covering the sidewalk, and I didn’t know where the sidewalk ended and the road started. So, I was actually standing in the bus’s way and the driver looked so angry, and he was going really fast.”

With snow, buses struggle to respect regular schedules in NDG, in Saint-Laurent, and almost everywhere in Montreal, according to public transit users.

Three construction projects on Côte-Vertu Boulevard in Saint-Laurent have been making traffic unbearable for most people in the area since April. Now that it has snowed, it’s making it even worse.

Although the three projects’ are meant to speed up public transit, the work will continue adversely affecting residents and workers until Dec. 15.

“The first project, at the Côte-Vertu metro station, consists of changing the permeability membrane to prevent water from getting in,” said Aref Salem, city councillor and vice-chair of the Commission sur le transport et les travaux publics. This project was complete by the beginning of last week.

The second project is the service rapide par bus (SRB), which is a 24/7 reserved bus lane.

“The whole point of the SRB between Côte-Vertu and Sauvé [stations] is to speed up buses, especially the 121. It has around 40,000 users every day, and we want to help them save time,” said Salem.

The third project is under the Montpellier REM train station viaduct and consists of changing the pillars.

“We want to strengthen the bridge to support new trains and a closed station so people can’t get access to the train without a valid ticket,” said Salem. Passengers will have to scan their tickets before entering the station.

Daily commuters of Côte-Vertu Boulevard are complaining the projects are causing traffic and the snow is making transport unbearable.

“I just want them to finish with all the construction,” said Maryam Bairouk, a resident near Côte-Vertu Boulevard. “I had a car accident a few weeks ago at the Jules-Poitras and Côte-Vertu light. A car was reversing because they were stuck in the intersection, and they smashed into my car.”

These projects are also affecting public transit users.

HEC student Annie Marcel said that before it snowed, the only annoyance was the detour the bus had to take near the metro. She said she’s glad this project ended before the snowstorm, but that the snow alone is a struggle.

“I had to wait over 10 minutes for the 121 to show up when it was only three minutes away. It was stuck at the same light for five minutes,” Marcel said.

Demix Construction, a division of CRH Canada Group Inc., is the contracting company of these projects.

Though The Concordian tried to reach the company, engineer and project manager Marco Pelle said the STM asked to redirect journalists’ questions to them, who also refused to comment.

These projects are expected to end by Dec. 15, and the SRB should be operational starting January 2020.


Feature photo by Britanny Clarke


A commotion in Concordia’s FG building

The university is responsible for trying to solve distracting, frustrating problem

Every Monday, I struggle to wake up for my 8:45 a.m. lecture. What makes matters worse is that my class is in the FG building on Concordia’s downtown campus. This building’s main floor and upper levels have been under construction since before the semester started. Many students, like me, have had to make their way to class only to have most of what their professor says be drowned out by the sounds of construction.

It was a bit of a joke at the start of the semester because the sound of construction seemed to start immediately after the professor began talking. However, after nine weeks of having large portions of every class be interrupted by the sound of drilling, it has become a nuisance.

During our most recent lecture, the drilling noises lasted for an hour and a half straight. I counted seven students in my class who got up mid-lecture and walked out because they couldn’t hear anything the professor was saying. I could also see more and more students—myself included—looking frustrated as the drilling persisted.

Our teacher has been forced to scream his lectures to the class. Even with him yelling, we still often miss important information. Whenever someone tries asking, or rather, screaming a question, the teacher can’t hear us either. Most of the class consists of “Sir, can you repeat that?” followed by our professor asking “What? Can you repeat your question?”

On top of the noise, sometimes the construction produces strange smells. For the most part, it does not filter down into the classrooms and there are large fans set up to help keep the air circulating, which also produce a lot of noise. But every now and again, smells make their way into the halls and the classrooms. This might not bother many people, but as someone with asthma, it really affects me. What’s worse is that I know the classroom is probably the area where it smells the least, so I can’t exactly leave the room to escape it.

Although the construction isn’t necessarily Concordia’s fault, it’s still affecting students and professors. Essentially, professors have to re-teach their students during office hours and are losing their voices. In my opinion, the construction is also affecting students’ physical health at times, by giving them headaches and, in the case of some students like me, affecting their breathing.

Concordia has a duty to its staff and students to provide adequate learning and teaching environments. As it stands, the FG building is not one.

This is an unlikely solution, but perhaps Concordia could work with the construction company or the other owners of the building to ensure construction times do not coincide with class hours. Again, I understand how hard it would be to come to that kind of consensus. Another option would be for Concordia to reduce the number of classes held in the FG building while construction takes place, or at the very least, not hold classes in rooms that are closest to the construction site.

I am fully aware that the university’s administration has little to no control over the issue. But they also need to recognize that it’s having a negative impact on students and professors. Therefore, they have to do whatever is in their power to ensure classes are interrupted as little as possible and that students and teachers have an adequate space to flourish in.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Kafein owner can’t stay afloat amidst construction

Bishop Street businesses have not been compensated for loss of foot traffic

After 15 years as a small business owner and months of decreased foot traffic, Gaby Nassar is losing Kafein, a café-bar popular among students.

“Basically, the landlord is taking over my business. This is happening in a week or two,” Nassar said. “I’m so behind on rent, and he would excuse my debt to him. So that’s where we are now.”

From Nassar’s perspective, the overdue rent payments and outstanding debt are the result of one thing: a 42-month construction project that has dissuaded potential customers from walking along Bishop Street, where his business is located.

As The Concordian previously reported, Bishop Street businesses have been struggling since October 2016, when the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) began construction on a new metro ventilation station that will ensure fresh air for the green line between the Peel and Guy-Concordia stations. The infrastructure project is predicted to finish in 2020, but according to Nassar, things took a turn for the worst as soon as the project began.

“We basically lost 25 per cent [of foot traffic] within the week after the construction, right off the bat. During the school year, students would make the trek, but then in the summer months, we had a 40 per cent decrease [in sales],” Nassar explained.

After the loss in customers jeopardized his rent payments, Nassar, along with a coalition of four other affected Bishop Street businesses, including Ferrari restaurant, Craft Grilled Cheese, Gourmet Burger and Mesa 14, filed a lawsuit in April against the STM and the city of Montreal. They requested compensation of $2,500 per business for every month of construction, free advertising in nearby metro stations, as well as funding to commission an engineering firm to see if the project could be sped up.

Despite the fact that his landlord is taking over Kafein, Nassar will be continuing with the lawsuit. Although a court date has yet to be confirmed, Nassar said he believes it will be at least six months until the trial begins.

Nassar did not lose the business he has operated for years without a fight. He claimed he had been speaking with “high-level [city] officials,” but after the latest update he received from them, he knew he would be unable to support his business financially.

“[The city] is not coming up with a program to help businesses until June or July, and that’s way too far outside my comfort zone. Even then, they’re not 100 per cent sure if I would be included in that program,” Nassar said.

Nassar said he doesn’t know what Kafein’s future will be once his landlord takes over the business. Currently, he is focused on finding some justice through the upcoming lawsuit.

Nassar added that many of the other Bishop Street business owners are struggling as well, to the point where they may soon close or lose their business to landlords. In the case of Craft Grilled Cheese, the owner has already decided to close the restaurant permanently. Ste-Catherine Street businesses may be the next to experience a decrease in customers, as a two-year construction project began in January 2018, according to Global News.

Although attention from tourists and pedestrians decreased as soon as construction on Bishop Street began, Nassar said he is grateful for Kafein’s most devoted customers, including many students.

“We had gotten a lot of support in the last year. People were willing to make the trip, and there were a lot of obstacles,” he said. “It’s too bad. A lot of people tried to help with this; we just couldn’t do it.”

The Concordian reached out to the STM for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Photo by Kirubel Mehari


Bishop Street business owners want peace

Construction on downtown street has caused some to consider closing up shop

Restaurant and bar owners on Bishop Street want financial compensation from the city of Montreal for lost revenue due to the construction of a new metro ventilation station that’s driving customers away.

According to the the Société de transport de Montréal, the station will replace an aging one on De la Montagne Street and provide fresh air to the green line between the Peel and Guy-Concordia stations. The STM said work on the station began in October 2016 and should be finished by mid-2020.

That’s too long for Carlo Zahabi, the owner of Le Gourmet Burger, a restaurant on Bishop Street that’s been hit hard by the construction. He said sales have dropped by as much as 60 per cent since the work began.

“I’m three to four months behind on my rent,” Zahabi said. “It’s a real possibility that I’ll have to close down.”

In April, Zahabi and a coalition of Bishop Street business owners filed a lawsuit against the city of Montreal and the STM requesting $2,500 compensation for every month of construction, and $25,000 to commision a private engineering firm to inspect the project and see if it could be done faster. The coalition also wants free advertising for their businesses in the nearby Peel and Guy-Concordia metro stations.

Last week, a judge denied the coalition’s request for temporary compensation—which would have given the businesses financial aid before the case went to trial. It’s a decision that seriously hurts the businesses’ ability to stay open even up until the trial date which will likely only take place in 2019, according to Legal Logik, the firm representing the merchants.

“We tried to show [the judge] that it was urgent,” said Gaby Nassar, the owner of Kafein, a café-bar on Bishop Street affected by the construction. “Now the delays will be substantial.”

The construction turned a usually busy street into a tangle of concrete barriers and metal fences. On their website, the STM urged pedestrians and cyclists to avoid the section of Bishop Street where the work is taking place.

“They’re blocking access to my restaurant with a fence,” Zahabi said. “It’s a dead end sidewalk, and they put up a sign that says ‘Trottoir Barré.’ Who’s going to come down there?”

Both Nassar and Zahabi said they’re unhappy with the way the STM notified them the work was going to start.

“[The STM] said they sent fliers,” Zahabi claimed. “That’s not any way to notify a business of construction in front of their place. They should have prepared a plan to save us before they started the work.”

Nassar agreed: “They could have approached us months in advance to talk instead of letting us cry for help.”

In February, the city of Montreal unveiled a plan to reconstruct a large part of St-Hubert Street. The work is slated to begin in the summer of 2018 and continue until 2021. The city announced it will be offering financial compensation to St-Hubert Street merchants who lose business as a result of the construction.

The city did not offer any compensation to the merchants on Bishop Street.

“[The city] told us [they have many] resources for financial programs to help businesses out when there’s construction, but for some reason we’re an exception,” Zahabi said. “I don’t see any exception. It’s all work.”

According to Zahabi, the construction has already forced two restaurants on Bishop Street to close and another to file for bankruptcy.

The coalition of Bishop Street merchants is determined to continue their legal battle against the STM and the city of Montreal. The STM refused to comment on the Bishop Street construction, noting that information about the project is available on their website.

“It’s a situation that needs a bit of attention,” Nassar said. “The city is being slow and not active. We’re not going to give up. My business has been here 15 years. We’re going to keep fighting.”

Photo by Alex Hutchins


Better road planning through crowdsourcing

Concordia professor inventive app helps city of Montreal organize construction

This month, the city of Montreal is using an innovative smartphone app, called MTL Trajet, to track Montrealers’ trips through the city in an effort to better plan road networks, construction detours and bike paths.  

It’s the second time the city is running the project. Last fall, more than 11,000 Montreal residents downloaded the app.

MTL Trajet is a version of the Itinerum app, both developed by Zachary Patterson, a geography professor and director of the Transportation Research for Integrated Planning (TRIP) Lab at Concordia University. He developed the app in 2014 as a way to collect travel behaviour data around the Concordia community.

Patterson said the MTL Trajet project has the potential to serve as a new way to collect data that can be used to plan transportation networks. According to the Société de transport métropolitain (STM), their main source of transportation data is Origin Montreal—a phone survey that is conducted every five years.

“Young people are being left out of these surveys,” Patterson said. “[MTL Trajet] is a method by which you can hopefully have more detailed information on people’s trips and be able to capture segments of the population that are being less and less captured in these traditional surveys.”

According to Patterson, the project is one of the first of its kind. The San Francisco County Transportation Authority pioneered crowdsourced data collection in 2013 through the use of an app called Cycletracks. Cycletracks used GPS data collected by cyclists in San Francisco to help plan bike paths, but according to user reviews, it didn’t always map routes accurately.

“These cycling apps, in order to record your trips, you had to open the app and say you’re taking a bike trip,” Patterson said. “What’s different with what we do is that MTL Trajet automatically detects when you’re taking a trip.”

In 2015, Patterson was asked by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) to use a version of the Itinerum app to map out bus routes in Accra, Ghana. Accra’s transportation network was a semi-formal network of buses called trotros, operated by independent contractors. Patterson said the inexpensive nature of the Itinerum app allowed them to accurately map out Accra’s public transit system.

What he and his team found was that many of the listed routes taken by the buses in Ghana weren’t actually in use at all.

Patterson cited battery life as one of biggest challenges in creating a data-mapping app.

“Our goal was to be able to collect data every block so we could identify people’s itineraries accurately but not change their [phone] charging schedule,” he said. “That was the hardest thing.”

Patterson sees a future for crowdsourcing apps like Itinerum and MTL Trajet as an easy-to-use and inexpensive tool for researchers. “My hope is that it will be available to be used not just by people who have a deep understanding of programming, but also by students,” he said.

The more people who use the MTL Trajet app, he said, the more useful and accurate the data will be.

MTL Trajet is available for download on the App Store or Google Play Store.


Concordia researchers on roads: Don’t repair. Prevent.

New study outlines system for predicting pavement degradation

A Concordia professor and two students have designed a new system to evaluate the condition of pavement in the hopes of preventing its deterioration. Tarek Zayed, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, and graduate students Soliman Abu-Samra and Wael Tabra published the findings in their report, “Pavement Condition Rating Using Multiattribute Utility Theory,” in the Journal of Transportation Engineering, Part B: Pavements.

The authors studied data on road conditions from the Nebraska Department of Roads, supplemented by a survey of experts from across the world, to determine the most serious kinds of pavement defect. They identified transverse cracking—cracking which runs parallel to the road—as the most serious form of deterioration. Other forms included rutting—when the pavement is deformed by tires in high heat—and road roughness. The researchers then considered each of these factors when it came to their impact on pavement quality.

However, Abu-Samra said simply examining these factors is not enough.

“[Existing systems] just [observe] the defects and assess the condition accordingly,” he said. “But our system takes into account the triggers of these defects. So, basically, it takes into account the climate condition, the average daily traffic, the average daily temperature—all of these factors do contribute to the deterioration of the asphalt.”

The model was shown to predict pavement deterioration with 94 per cent accuracy.

Graduate student Soliman Abu-Samra speaking at a TED Talk event. Photo courtesy of Soliman Abu-Samra.

Abu-Samra said roads across the continent are in poor condition because current municipal strategies are reactive rather than preventative. More than half of roads in Canada are in subpar condition, according to the 2016 Canadian Infrastructure Report Card.

“We are trying to move from a reactive approach to a preventative approach,” Abu-Samra said. “Reaction is not management.”

According to the 2016 Canadian Infrastructure Report, “spending $1 on prevention” when roads are in peak condition “eliminates or delays spending $6 to $10 on rehabilitation or reconstruction” when they are in poor condition later on.

Citing the Canadian Infrastructure Report, Zayed, Abu-Samra and Tabra’s paper said the cost to fix all Canadian roads in fair or poor condition is estimated at $91.1 billion in total, or $7,325 per household.

Abu-Samra was not aware of any research comparing Montreal roads to those of other North American cities. However, according to the CBC, the city of Montreal evaluated more than half of its roads as being “bad” or “very bad” in 2015. The city determined this by looking at Pavement Condition Index (PCI) scores from that year. The PCI is an index used in many North American cities to evaluate stretches of pavement on a 100-point scale, with 100 being the best and one being the worst.

Abu-Samra has also published three books on infrastructure maintenance, has delivered a TED Talk on the subject and currently serves as the vice-president of Concordia’s chapter of the North American Society for Trenchless Technology (NASTT). He said he hopes the model designed by his team will be adopted across North America, which currently lacks a standard pavement evaluation system.

The published study can be downloaded here.

Photo by Kirubel Mehari


Opinions: Montreal’s poor infrastructure needs to be dealt with now

Image via Flickr

Montrealers live life dangerously. They take risks everyday by simply walking down the street or driving through the Turcot interchange for a little trip to Ikea. It’s thrilling really. Even parking — not the action of parking but being parked — can turn into an adventure involving cars being swallowed by sinkholes. Or, a walk to class can become an exhilarating water slide down the street wherein the building of a dam ensues.

The sinkhole at the Trudeau airport that partially swallowed two cars did not come as a surprise. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that when a water main broke on Jan. 28 releasing 40 million litres of water down McTavish St., that was not a surprise either. Are we ever really surprised? When a block of cement falls from a bridge through someone’s windshield? When a 25-tonne slab of concrete falls onto the Ville-Marie highway? Or similarly, when in 2000, an overpass killed five people? That one was disconcerting.

The city keeps emphasizing a need for gentrification but there isn’t much talk about fixing what is behind the scenes. Roadwork has become synonymous with patchwork. Parts of Montreal’s underground water system, indeed, date back to the early 20th century. Thankfully, as part of a billion-dollar project, pipes and underground water systems are set to be repaired in the next 10 years.

Even Montreal’s 2012 municipal budget acknowledged the “decades of neglect” justifying its plans to go from $265 million in its spending to $1.5 billion.

“We have spent billions and billions of dollars since the end of the ‘80s, early ‘90s on our infrastructure. Do you find there is much improvement at all?” said Toronto Sun journalist Brigitte Pellerin at a conference organized the Fraser Institute on March 23.

What with the Charbonneau commission, I think we’ve all figured out where the money’s been going (down a sinkhole along with the noses of those two cars). We’ve gotten so used to this dangerous lifestyle that we don’t have the energy to confront. Proof is the Charbonneau commission was brought about after a series of really good journalistic investigations were made, namely, by La Presse.

Yes, media is society’s voice, but it is moderated, malleable and not a perfect two-way form of communication. Granted, our government hasn’t exactly been transparent about its spending, but isn’t that something that we should be questioning by ourselves? That’s why I think, although radical, it’s healthy to have people protesting in the streets despite the fact that it doesn’t always represent widespread views.

I can just imagine city officials pacing in their office with sudden bursts of energy:

“OK! Infrastructure. What do we do about that one, Gérald?”

“What do we usually do?”


Gérald Tremblay steps down

Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay announced his resignation from office due to ongoing allegations of corruption on Monday evening.

Tremblay held the press conference at 7 p.m. but met with councillors from his party at city hall hours before he officially stepped down.

Tremblay said he dedicated himself to the success of Montreal and he denied allegations of misconduct, specifically those made recently at the Charbonneau Commission relating to his own party.

“Under these circumstances, I cannot help anymore,” said Tremblay. “The success of the city is much more important than my personal interests.”

Several executives of Union Montreal, the mayor’s party, have been accused of taking kickbacks in exchange for awarding municipal contracts, during testimonies at the Charbonneau Commission. Tremblay went onto say that he remained skeptical and asked questions over the years but was only ever given documents and memos after the fact.

He accepted full responsibility for what happened but claimed that every time he was informed of corruption or collusion he gave the information to the proper authorities. Tremblay insisted he was unaware of the dishonesty that is currently rocking Quebec politics.

“In politics, perception matters more than the truth. Especially when it is manipulated by multiple factors and agendas, and when the chance to tell the truth is not stated or believed,” he said. “One day, justice will prevail.”

Tremblay took an extended weekend following a testimony from Martin Dumont, former organizer of the Union Montreal, that alleged Tremblay was aware of the scandals going within his office and ignored it. Residents and opposition were quick to criticize a budget tabled by council that aimed to raise taxes by three per cent last week before council reconsidered.

There will not be a municipal election since Tremblay resigned after Nov. 3 and instead city council will appoint a temporary mayor.

With files from Kalina Laframboise

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