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Montreal’s elevated highways take some getting used to. When I first moved here, I admit it, I was scared of them. I’d heard about the collapse of the Laval overpass that killed five people. I eyed the crumbling cement structures — in some places seemingly held together only with wire sutures — and imagined a chunk falling on my head as I walked by underneath. When I started driving in the city, I imagined an elevated highway giving way beneath my wheels, sending me plummeting to my death or dismemberment.
But lately, I’ve come to see the highways as having a particular kind of beauty of their own. In their stark but sinuous way, they slice through Montreal, marking borders between neighbourhoods, north and south, east and west. They mark psychological boundaries between communities of very different means and cultures. When I lived in Verdun, the 15 and the 20 were inescapable; they fenced off the neighbourhood from Montreal and gave it the feel of some small market town in the countryside.
I have a dream for Montreal’s elevated highways. One day, when automobiles and trucks have ended their brief empire over our cities, I imagine them reverting to wilderness. Helped along by humankind, they would become mile after mile of parkland, allowing a pastoral retreat above the city, but serving forever as a reminder of Montreal’s post-war growth. I admit, this is not an original idea. New York City’s soon-to-be-open High Line Railway is the first park in this model. But if Montreal one day dedicated every mile of its elevated highways to parkland, we would outstrip the High Line at least one hundred fold.
Meanwhile, back in the real world (!), this blog provides some great insights into what is actually going on with one section of the highways — the Turcot Exchange.