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Montreal-Mirabel Airport

This picture sums up the state of Montreal-Mirabel these days: empty.

© ­iStockphoto.com/m-1975

­One of the world's largest airports sits practically empty and unused. Montreal-Mirabel Airport is a $1 billion airport located 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Montreal, Canada. The airport opened in 1975 during a time when Montreal was experiencing a building boom in preparation for the Olympics.

Montreal-Mirabel was supposed to be one of the world's major airports, taking in 50 million passengers a year with six runways and six terminals. It didn't even manage to crack 3 million, and the last passenger flight took off on Oct. 31, 2004.

The airport's failure can be attributed in part to bureaucratic and political struggles, particularly relating to groups lobbying for Quebec's independence, which prevented lawmakers from settling on a plan to create transportation routes linking the airport to downtown Montreal. Banks, businesses and English-speaking Montreal residents left as squabbles over Quebecois separatism intensified, bogging down the region's economy. The 1970s energy crisis also harmed the aviation industry.

The airport was intended to be a hub for quick trans-Atlantic flights on the Concorde, another infamous boondoggle. Instead, traffic was stolen away by Montreal-Dorval Airport (now called Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport), which expanded to take advantage of the newly ascendant Boeing 747.

­In February 2006, the Montreal Airports Authority announced a deal with two French developers to turn Montreal-Mirabel into a massive space-and-water-themed amusement park. The first of three renovations is expected to cost $100 million. As of early 2009, construction on the theme park hadn't begun.

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