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The winds of change are blowing and they just might transform Montreal


We live in a city largely frozen in time, where nothing much ever changes dramatically, at least since the days of Expo 67 (let’s just forget the Olympics).


So it’s astonishing to see so many good changes swirling in the air recently — huge projects that could transform Montreal in ways we can’t really imagine. But let’s give it a try:


1) I was flabbergasted by last week’s news we may finally get a fast train to the airport, like normal cities — and a vast new rail system linking the West Island to downtown and the South Shore.


Yes, hardened Cynics-of-Montreal, I know we’ve discussed this idea ever since Sir John A. hammered The Last Spike. But now Quebec’s Caisse de dépôt has committed $3 billion — more than half the cost — while the Trudeau government needs large infrastructure projects to enhance its deficit.


The train is a perfect fit. If would give us one of the world’s best light rail networks, operating as early as 2020. It would make the airport a 10-minute ride from downtown during rush hour, instead of an hour in traffic.


It would tempt motorists to switch from roads to rails. Even if we can’t fix our %$%#@ potholes — maybe we can finally avoid them by leaving our cars at home.


2) A fast train to Toronto and Ottawa is another fairy tale we’ve talked about since Confederation. The Montreal-Toronto train officially takes 5 hours, though VIA usually announces an “unexpected” delay because a freight train is using the passenger track, or just squatting on it during the crews’ coffee break.


But now VIA wants to build a separate new passenger track to make Toronto a three-hour lunch run. Let’s hope the Trudeau government hops on board, for a mere $1.8 billion.


3) The Champlain Bridge is turning from a disaster into a dream. After years of crumbling under our feet, a $4.24-billion new bridge is suddenly rising.


Our mild winter has created a bizarre situation never before seen in Quebec. Work is going “faster than expected” say engineers and is actually ahead of schedule for 2018 completion.


Uh, say that again, please. “Ahead of schedule” is not a term normally used in Quebec.


On a smaller scale, the Jacques Cartier Bridge is getting a facelift — a glittering state-of-the-art lighting job that should give our city a romantic Golden Gate glow.


It will change colours nightly and for special events — for instance red, white and blue when the Canadiens win — and pitch black when they fail to win the Stanley Cup again.


Critics complain it’s too pricey at $39.5 million, but most of that’s a 375th “birthday gift” from Ottawa. I say: why look a gift bridge in the mouth — then watch the money go to lighting up a bridge in Saskatoon instead?


Let the St. Lawrence sparkle.


4) Ste-Catherine St.’s massive renovation starts next year to update our fading Grand Dame of streets. Let us all pray it’s not another St-Laurent/St-Denis botch-up, where the operation’s successful but the patient dies.


Ste-Catherine will become more pedestrian-friendly with sitting areas, outdoor Wi-Fi and heated winter sidewalks I’ve been pushing for since I was wowed and warmed by them in Scandinavia.


The city vows to work quickly to remake the street, not murder it. Let us all pray.


5) Not enough for you? How about the proposed new $1.8-billion métro extension to the Blue Line that would enlarge our subway on the island for the first time in almost 30 years — adding five new stations?


Or the continuing Bonaventure Expressway demolition to finally give Montreal a grand “urban gateway” worthy of our town. I won’t miss the current entranceway: a warehouse-littered wasteland that feels like the gateway to an industrial park.


There are biggish small ideas, too. We’re building a four-kilometre pedestrian walkway from the Old Port to the top of Mount Royal, connecting the city’s two signature points.


I’m also rooting for a terrific 375th idea proposed by one Montrealer to update the mountain’s cross. It would use the illuminated cross as a “T”, then surround it with a glowing M and L — to create the letters MTL — literally re-branding the mountain.


Cynics-of-Montreal, I know you’re skeptical. But if just half these projects happen, it will transform our city — and all have a pretty good shot, due to good timing.


Our city’s 375th birthday is attracting major funding that fits right in with the Trudeau infrastructure plan. There are also two Liberal governments in power that can likely agree on ideas, instead of squabbling over them — so our chances haven’t looked better since, well … 1967.


It’s also all happening after the Charbonneau Commission cleanup — not before — when half the money would have been lost in The Hideous Swamp Of Greed.


So Cynics-of-the-City, let your guard down and dare to dream.


But don’t forget to pray.



Edited by peekay
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Yes sir!


There's definitely a buzz in the city. Don't know about y'all but I feel it living downtown.


Nearly 10B in infrastructure pumped into the company


Solid residential boom in downtown core and surrounding areas


3 liberal stars aligned and those stars are seemingly friends


More US plates than I've ever seen before (granted low CAD)


A mayor that hustles hard at putting MTL on the world map. A great salesman and cheerleader is what the city was desperately lacking. Love his hustle and enthusiasm.

Edited by hockey19
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I'm a cynic but I have to admit there's a buzz around Montreal these days. However, there's more to it than just announcing these projects....we have to get the RIGHT.


As the author said, you don't want to give areas of the city a facelift only to kill the patient. The same thing goes for all these infrastructure projects like Turcot, Champlain Bridge, etc; they need to be planned and executed in a way rarely seen in this city. In other words, we need more "on time and on budget" projects and less Dorval Circles.

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Great post Peekay. One would hope the local rag would have civic boosters on staff. Mtl's boom is also going on here in Ottawa (LRT phase 1, massive parliamentary district renos., Zibi and soon Lebreton Flats development), so I can relate to the buzz. Just so glad to see the stars align for Mtl. I never gave up on the city, despite the dreary atmosphere surrounding it for so many decades, and now (fingers crossed), it can come into the 21st century having shaken off the rust, and take its rightful place as a solid Canadian and International métropole. I look forward to my strolls through the city to look at the works in progress and envision the final product.

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