It’s the interchange of the future, a modern gateway connecting the Island of Montreal but arguably now, the Turcot Interchange is a showpiece to the city’s urban underbelly.
“I know. I saw it and it’s just ugly,” said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.
Cutting through the new, $3.6-billion Turcot Interchange in any direction, it’s impossible not to notice layers and layers of graffiti. The vandalism is especially acute on the wall below the MUHC Hospital, next to Highway 15 northbound.
“It’s the perfect space for artists to come in and do their things,” said Corey Fleischer, who runs Erasing Hate, an initiative to remove hate signs from public spaces.
While removing swastikas from public spaces is another level of seriousness, Fleischer admits the graffiti around the Turcot is problematic. He says artists are coming in quickly and painting furiously, and he understands why some may not view the result as an art form.
He blames the government for not covering it up quickly enough, which would have served as a deterrent.
“If it was removed right away then it would not attract other people to come and do it, but that has been left there for so long,” Fleischer said. “The city has really dropped the ball on covering that up and has invited other people to come in and, as you said, vandalize.”
The Turcot project falls under provincial jurisdiction. The Transport Ministry admits dealing with graffiti isn’t easy.
“The new Turcot Interchange goal was to give a good look and entrance to the city of Montreal,” said Martin Girard, a spokesman for Transport Quebec. “Now with the graffiti, it’s sad and it’s a problem.
“We are doing as much as we can but it’s very difficult.”
KPH, the contractor for the projet, is now covering walls with a special coat of paint that makes it easier to remove graffiti. There are plans to plant trees and greenery to restrict access.
The contractor said it will remove all the graffiti before the new Turcot Interchange is finished next year.
But Fleischer argues at some point, the government should consider embracing the urban art form.
“A way to think out of the box perhaps would be to opening it up to graffiti artists and allowing them to do it,” he said.
Plante, however, just wants it cleaned up.
“The sooner the better because it looks less messy,” Plante said.