I walk back from the grocery store, cross the busy street and then hit a giant physical hurdle: a large yellow metal fence blocks my path. I work out a way through and once past it, there is no sidewalk. I traverse the gravel and cross a wooden plank that lays precariously over a giant hole exposing the pipes. I jump another hole, feeling now like Indiana Jones, and reach my home. Once in I go to the faucet for a glass of water. But no water comes forth.
This experience happens to me on a weekly basis living downtown in Montreal. Alas it is the same for many others in Montreal. An evening stroll is actually an urban adventure, a constant perilous journey to simply cross the road to avoid the dreaded orange cones.
By car or by foot, Montreal is becoming nearly impossible to travel around. More so than just the logistics, there is the constant sound of the pneumatic drill that awakens the deepest of sleepers, and like Edgar Allen Poe’s raven, torments you throughout. Water is randomly off or on a “boil warning” due to poison risks, and occasionally a gas leak cuts the power.
For many island residents the construction has got to the point where one now feels like we live in a city under siege. The island functions essentially as a war zone. The only respite comes in the inevitable conversations with everyone you meet, unified in the hate for the constant whir of machinery.
These days many day it’s worse than ever, and although it might seem like hyperbole it’s not, there are a record 40 road construction sites around the island. For many this number seems small though and doesn’t incorporate the countless other none road classified works.
“In total, there’s [SIC] 40 construction sites, major ones, on the island of Montreal,” city of Montreal spokesperson Philippe Sabourin said. “Under the responsibility of the city, there’s 10, and five are ahead of schedule because of the dry summer.”
As an able-bodied man I feel lucky. How someone in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller gets around this city, I cannot fathom.
Minor construction works seemingly [its not seemingly, it’s actually. -Ed] last for years, pavements are semi-permanently ripped up, and then left for weeks without any progress. I forget the last time I went out for a walk, even a short one, and didn’t have to ramble over a dug up road or avoid a closed sidewalk. The only way in and out of my Local grocery store is to walk the plank like a pirate; The danger is no less worse than on the seas.
This permanence is infuriating. No other city in the world that I know of shows this much disdain for the local residents. Did we really need that bit of road pedestrianized THIS year, when there are unfinished works from a decade ago surrounding it on every side? Was it really wise to start 7 construction projections on the same road, start them and not come back?
Montreal has many things holding it back form becoming a world class city: language disputes and blistering cold winters aside, there is quite a bit to make this otherwise wonderful city unattractive to many. Ruining the summer months with needless, slow, tortuous construction means that the city is a difficult place to move around in all year round.
When will residents wake up against this never-ending mayhem? With increasingly hot summers, one’s inability to leave home easily has become scandalously dangerous. Montrealers shouldn’t have to spend their summers in third world conditions with the only benefit [what benefit exactly? -Ed.] being arbitrarily wider sidewalks.
The answer from the city is the same every time: Shoulder shrugs. At most, they might give residents some platitudes and apologies but they are still tantamount to nothing. The man with the caterpillar digger outside my house put it best after I complained about my water being cut off for the third day in a row without warning: He just looked at me and said “well…. shit happens.” Before I could respond, the pneumatic drill started again, and drowned out my protest.