Montreal

New Turcot Interchange already covered in graffiti, but authorities say little can be done about it

One Montreal tour guide says the graffiti looks bad for the city. But how much should authorities spend cleaning up the tags?

Transports Québec says the illegal decoration is part of Montreal's 'urban reality'

The new $3.7-billion Turcot Interchange is not yet complete, but already parts are covered in graffiti, upsetting some. (Louis-Marie Philidor/CBC)

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. 

Montreal tour guide Carlos Moradi takes groups of visitors on Highway 20 and says they find the graffiti 'shocking.' (CBC)

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."

Transports Québec plans to plant more trees and bushes to make the graffiti less visible from the road once construction is done. (Louis-Marie Philidor/CBC)

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."

About the Author

Chloë Ranaldi

Journalist

Chloë Ranaldi is a researcher and reporter at CBC Montreal.

With files from Brian Lapuz

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