New Turcot Interchange already covered in graffiti, but authorities say little can be done about it
Transports Québec says the illegal decoration is part of Montreal's 'urban reality'
Montreal tour guide Carlos Moradi says when he picks visitors up from the airport and drives them along Highway 20, they notice the amount of graffiti on the new Turcot Interchange.
"The graffiti shocks them," said Moradi. He feels the graffiti takes away from the city's beauty and gives the wrong impression to newcomers.
Construction on the new Turcot Interchange is expected to wrap up around 2020, but the $3.67-billion construction project has already become a haven for graffiti artists and taggers.
"Many tourists associate the graffiti tags with crime," Moradi said. "If millions of dollars have been spent on the new Turcot, why can't the government invest more to clean the graffiti?"
MTQ spends thousands on removing graffiti
Transports Québec says it spends between $50,000 and $80,000 annually removing graffiti from structures in the greater Montreal area.
Graffiti on the new Turcot Interchange is removed every summer, said Gilles Payer, a spokesperson for Transports Québec.
Payer acknowledged that some people aren't happy with the way the graffiti looks, but said that it is "part of the urban reality."
Once construction on the Turcot is completed, he says, trees and bushes will be planted to make the graffiti less visible.
But some areas of the new Turcot are difficult for workers to access, such as the walls near the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). Cleaning the graffiti there more often would be costly, he said.
"Everyone knows that if we come to clean the graffiti, it will be there the next day," Payer said. He added that hateful graffiti receives priority attention and is usually removed within a week.
Eyesore or art?
Leading figures in Montreal's graffiti community agree that it will be difficult for authorities to stop people from tagging the concrete.
"Laws are already in place to crack down on graffiti, but the police can't be everywhere," said Sterling Downey, a city councillor for Verdun and co-founder of the Under Pressure Graffiti Festival.
"The people who are doing it know it is illegal. They know the consequences. It's a roll of the dice."
Downey says not all graffiti is created equal, and noted that some famous Montreal artists began their careers in the streets.
"There is an evolution. People start in the streets and, at that time, [their work] might be seen as an eyesore. And then today, they do revered murals."
If people don't want to see graffiti on the new Turcot, he says, they should lobby the provincial government to spend more money cleaning it.
But, he added, there is a reason why graffiti always comes back, no matter how often it's removed.
"Graffiti taggers do it for the visibility and for the fame," he said. "Graffiti artists do it for the recognition among their peers, who recognize their tags."
With files from Brian Lapuz