Two years after the completion of the Turcot Interchange, graffiti covers the acres of dark grey concrete walls supporting the highway. The area underneath the MUHC Glen site by Highway 15 near the Decarie expressway is particularly stark, with almost every inch of the highway wall completely covered in colourful urban scrawls.
“It’s terrible. I think it gives a horrible impression of the city,” said Zino Fountotos, who works for graffiti removal company Rocket Graffiti. “I think it gives a first impression of a dirty, lawless city.”
Transports Québec completed the $3.6-billion interchange in 2020. While it was still under construction, vandals attacked the newly painted grey walls almost immediately.
Global News reported on the graffiti in 2019, when parts of the highway were still under construction. We spoke to Montreal’s mayor at the time, and she called the graffiti ugly, and wanted it cleaned up. The city doesn’t tolerate graffiti, and considers it a crime and vandalism.
Three years later, though, the graffiti is still there, and is only getting worse.
“What bothers me the most is hate graffiti, but I do understand the public reaction to what is going on,” said Corey Fleischer of Erasing Hate.
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Fleischer focuses on ridding public spaces of any hate-related graffiti. He said if the Turcot Interchange were covered in hate paint, it would be erased immediately. While he appreciates urban art and believes there is a place for it, he understands why some feel the Turcot Interchange is now out of control.
“There is almost no area left to graffiti. It is getting out of control,” he said. “It is not allowed by the laws of our city…. Unfortunately, they are just not attacking it the way they should be.”
Transports Québec is responsible for the Interchange and thus removing any graffiti. Spokesman Louis-André Bertrand said the department tackles graffiti in the spring and the fall, but that area in particular is very difficult to keep clean.
“We remove all the graffiti, but they come back and they put new ones. That is something we find deplorable,” Bertrand said. “The solution would be for people to respect private property and don’t do graffiti. If we were to clean up more frequently, it would not fix the problem. We are always open to finding solutions to mitigate the problem.”
City councillor Sterling Downey, who was once a graffiti artist, said the city would love to see a solution to the problem. He believes Transports Québec could be doing more to tackle the issue.
“Something as simple as the Turcot Interchange would not be very difficult to correct if they were to take the right approach,” Downey said. “If you are only cleaning it once a year, the reward is worth the risk because it stays for a long enough period of time.”
Downey says one more permanent solution could be to plant trees along the walls.
“By planting trees they could probably deal with 75 per cent of the problem in that area,” he said.
Downey says he would like to sit down with Transports Québec to discuss the problem and to work together to find solutions.
Experts say actually removing the graffiti poses challenges on so many levels. There is a lot to clean up, and the area isn’t easy to access
“It’s extremely dangerous due to having to go onto scaffold 30-40 feet in the air,” said Rocket Graffiti’s Fountotos. “On top of that you are using a high-powered pressure washer, it has a kickback, it’s really dangerous to fall off.”