MONTREAL – Alleged corruption-fuelled cost overruns aren’t the only menace upon Quebec’s road network these days.
Officials say they are dealing with the puzzling appearance of a utility pole – smack in the middle of a provincial highway east of Montreal.
The pole, which pokes out over Highway 251 in a village near Sherbrooke, Que., was featured in a local newspaper story Monday.
“We were only informed this morning (about the problem),” said Transport Quebec spokesman Gilles Bourque.
“It’s deplorable and completely unacceptable.”
So how did such an improbable obstacle wind up protruding from a highway, anyway?
According to various local media, area residents said the pole has been there for two months. Provincial transport authorities downplayed the danger, calling it a briefer phenomenon.
They said the roadway had been moved to avoid a dangerous curve. In recent weeks, they said, the new stretch was under construction and there were crews and signallers there to warn those motorists approaching the danger zone. The road was only paved last week, they said.
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Authorities promised to have the pole removed by the end of the month. But there was still some finger-pointing, among the actors involved in the project, about why it had taken so long.
Hydro-Quebec, which is responsible for maintaining the utility line, said it received word too late – only about three weeks ago – about the project.
Transport Quebec said its contractor didn’t deserve any blame. Bourque said there were communication problems between the provincial transport authority and the telephone and power utilities that share the line.
Bourque said proper signs and temporary traffic lights were being installed to ensure the safety of that portion of the road, where the maximum speed is 50 kilometres per hour.
The pole has not caused any harm, so far.
Quebec provincial police said there had been no reports of accidents at the site.
Highway 251 is a 38-kilometre stretch of provincial highway that runs north-south in the Eastern Townships region. The pole is in Johnville, a small village along the route.
Hydro-Quebec said a new pole was being installed and said the electrical and telephone wires should be moved by the end of the week. Spokeswoman Ginette Cantin said Hydro-Quebec had been waiting for instructions on an exact location where the poll should be moved, but only received word on Oct. 30.
“It’s not a usual situation,” Cantin said. “Normally the road work should not have been done before the lines were moved.”
Transport Quebec said it will conduct a review to determine what’s taken so long to remove the obstacle.
“We thought it would be done before the road work was done – but the result is there and it doesn’t excuse the situation,” Bourque said.
“We will modify our internal procedures and check to see what went wrong.”