[CRC] Photos from 1970s Montreal show heartbreak of freeway expansionPosted by Andrew in News on February 24th, 2011 – 1 Comment
When we talk about the Columbia River Crossing project in the Portland Metro region these days, the key terms seem to be “jobs,” “congestion,” “freight mobility” and so on.
But often forgotten in discussions of the project is the real, tangible impact that freeway expansions have on communities. Expropriations, home demolitions, sectioning off of neighborhoods; all of these are necessary biproducts of wanting more lanes, more space, more highway.
Andy Riga, on his terrific blog at the Montreal Gazette, has unearthed a treasure trove of photographs documenting the early-1970s expansion of the Ville-Marie Expressway in Montreal and the chaos the project unleashed on the neighborhood.
From photographer Brian Merrett’s recollection of his endeavor:
After the abandoned houses on the south side of Dorchester disappeared, excavations for a tunnel and a highway ramp began. The apartment building at St-Marc and Dorchester was demolished. Another residential building at Tupper and Baile also went down. The ramp’s open maw gaped onto St-Marc just a few feet from the front door of the Julia Drummond residence at St-Marc and Baile. Then, mysteriously, while empty and up for sale, that building burned.
Friends living in Lower Westmount heard about my concern for my neighbourhood and talked of how their lives were soon to be transformed by the expansion of the Ville-Marie expressway. Living on Prospect Avenue, just above the CP commuter tracks, these families had friends living on Selby Street and Greene Avenue. I was invited to document the changes that were happening in that neighbourhood.
With members of the Westmount Action Committee, I spent two or three intense days photographing the demolition and disruption in that area then, over the next few months, I went back to document as the construction of the highway crushed into the neighbourhood. I photographed at rallies and at demonstrations. The resulting panels of images were used in awareness-building events, at the 1971 Earth Day demonstration at Place Ville-Marie and ﬁnally as panels in the 1971 ‘Montréal Plus ou Moins’ exhibition organized by architect Melvin Charney for the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
While Autoroute 720′s construction saw the demolition of most of the right-of-way, the project was never fully completed as a result of cost constraints. Showing they’ve learned something in the past forty years, the City of Montreal is now planning to turn the other portion of the right-of-way into a six lane “urban boulevard” instead of a limited-access highway as originally planned.
We could take some notes and learn a bit from the history of other regions before we snap the necks o N/NE Portland neighborhoods for a megahighway bridge project.
[Side note: It's worth clicking Riga's link to the scanned page from a Gazette article of the time. I love seeing the signs reading "Housing not cars," "Renovate not destroy" and "Make housing a priority."]