Painting of the Québec Bridge: Imposed by Ottawa, Paid by Québec?

Painting of the Québec Bridge: Imposed by Ottawa, Paid by Québec?

Quebec City (Quebec) 7 June 2015 – If the federal government passed a law to force CN to repaint the Québec Bridge, the province may have to pay for it. The convention of using the roadway, signed by Québec in 2013, provides for the sharing of costs in the event of work “extraordinary” or, failing that, the end of the agreement and therefore the prohibition of the bridge to cars.

An agreement negotiated under the Liberals, but signed by the PQ, lists the conditions of use of the bridge, including the obligation for the provincial government to invest $60 million by 2022 for the maintenance of the structure and the major works program. CN must add $35 million.

The definition of “extraordinary” work is found in section 2.13. It includes all non-budgeted works, “including the work required as a result of an unforeseeable and irresistible event”. “The extraordinary work include maintenance or repairs that CN is required to do to comply with laws or any decision or judgment of an authority,” it specifies.

The New Democratic Party filed in early May a bill to force the heritage railway infrastructure owners to keep them in good condition. In case of failure, the federal commands the work, and would be reimbursed. CN is obviously targeted as owner of the Québec Bridge.

On the eve of the federal election campaign, the mayors of Québec City and Lévis also grow on all political parties to commit to repainting the Québec Bridge. As the negotiation does not work with CN, they suggest opting for federal coercion.

If that were the case, the agreement between Québec and CN, however, would confuse the issue. Article 5 provides that CN may terminate the agreement in the event of extraordinary works of more than $ 10 million, “unless an agreement is reached within this period between CN and MTQ [Ministry of Transport of Québec] on the sharing of costs.” A “simple written notice of 180 days” is required. Vehicles could not travel on the Québec Bridge on the expiry of that period.

The daily traffic on the Québec Bridge is about 30 000 passes per weekday, compared with about 120,000 in the Pierre-Laporte Bridge.

Asked to comment, Chouc Olivier, Vice President, CN Legal Affairs, confirmed that the railway company could pass a part of any invoice surprise to its partner.

“The sharing of costs under the 2013 agreement was based on an accurate estimate for specific jobs. Although the possibility of a special law was not specifically considered, the agreement provides for renegotiation and, failing an agreement, the end of the agreement, whether additional work should be required ” he explained.

The document does not specify the breakdown of expected costs. This would require that both parties agree and declare themselves satisfied. Last time, the sharing formula was one third for CN, two thirds for Québec.

The costs of a new painting were first estimated at $200 million and $350 to 400 million by CN. Québec City and Lévis dispute these figures.

In November, the province has set new $23.5 million on the table during the announcement of a government contribution of $100 million for a possible painting site.

The MTQ would not comment on the possibility to absorb a portion of the painting bill or close the roadway to traffic. Its spokesman, Guillaume Paradis said he did “not respond to hypothetical questions.”

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