The Two-Year St. Catherine St. Revamp

  • Graphic Graeme Shorten Adams

In June, the mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre, announced his plans to begin a massive underground reconstruction of Ste. Catherine Street. Expected to begin in 2016, 2.2 kilometres of the street, between Atwater Ave. and Bleury St., will be closed off to cars and partially to pedestrians. The construction work will take place in two phases, with the first phase expected to cost between $80-95 million.

Although many shoppers and residents welcome the upgrade of one of the main urban districts in Montreal, there is a lot to be skeptical about.

It is no secret that Quebec takes the lead in being the province with the highest cost of construction in Canada. According to Transport Canada, Quebec road construction and maintenance is far more expensive than anywhere else in the country.

Add the dramatic cost of construction inflation mainly linked to corruption scandals amongst large construction companies and you’ve got yourself an inflated price tag attached to 3 kilometres of road.

The mayor insists that the street is in urgent need of sewer changes and the improvement of electric and gas lines that run below this street stretch since the appearance of a sinkhole on the corner of Guy St. and Ste. Catherine St. last August.

He may be right—if Ste. Catherine St. doesn’t receive an overhaul soon, one sinkhole will be the least of the city’s problems.

The street clearly needs some work done, but many people welcome this change without questioning the extent of time and money spent partially because they envision work on the façades of the buildings as well, which is not the case. As for now, only the underground infrastructure will be improved.

It would therefore be great if the city could get construction companies to work around the same time and possibly include above-ground reparations as well to ensure efficiency and fit within a given timeline without compromising the street’s metropolitan nature for too long.

Otherwise, it would come as no surprise if they fell behind on time similarly to the case of the Dorval Interchange, which is currently six years behind schedule with its cost tripled, and still incomplete to this day.

If any similar glitches occur during this construction, then Montreal will surely be subject to substantial mockery and humiliation—and it will be well deserved.

Since Ste. Catherine St. “deserves more than changing a pipe,” as Mr. Coderre mentioned during a press conference, all there is to hope for is that the work on the famous street will be done properly, not take longer than expected and most importantly that the taxpayer money shall not be misused and involved in yet another corruption scandal.

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