Pie-IX: A decade of construction sites in Montreal North

For more than 10 years now, the orange cones have taken up residence on Pie-IX Boulevard, in Montreal North, to the great displeasure of the citizens. However, they are not at the end of their sentence, with the repair of the Pie-IX bridge which will continue until the fall of 2023.

On the spot, the mere mention of Pie-IX is enough to arouse many bursts of laughter. Also on the Internet, the boulevard has become the subject of memes over time, a sign of the unique situation in which it finds itself.

“In Montreal, there are always works, but it’s true that Pie-IX, we have the impression that it will never end. Even COVID will end before that,” exclaims Mohamed Awada. Having worked for eight years at the Hip Hop Sports store, he has been in the front row to follow the evolution of the various construction sites.

The perpetual presence of the orange cones is not just an impression. The author of these lines obtained from the City the list of work that has been carried out there over the past 15 years. Displacements of aqueducts, rehabilitations of sewers, reorganizations; the list is long. No less than 21 projects are listed there. From 2011, the boulevard was the subject of an almost uninterrupted succession of construction sites.

“There has long been a neglect in relation to the east end of Montreal. Boulevard Pie-IX is a case that is a victim of the investments we want to make in the east end of Montreal, but the linkage [entre les différents paliers] cannot be done,” points out Danielle Pilette, professor at UQAM and specialist in the municipal world.

Pie-IX: A decade of construction sites in Montreal North

Photo Felix Lacerte-Gauthier

Two major projects are mainly responsible for the situation.

In 2012, the administration of Gérald Tremblay started the overhaul of the Henri-Bourassa / Pie-IX interchange, since the viaduct then in place had become dangerous.

Four years later, the City officially launched the SRB Pie-IX project, initially announced in 2009, the arrival of which would require a complete redevelopment of the boulevard.

The North Montrealers are not at the end of their sentence. This last project is not yet finished, that already, the reconstruction of the Pie-IX bridge, which has become an emergency, will require its complete closure on weekends, until 2023.

“Is it serious?” asks Olivier Landry, territory supervisor for Benny&Co. Informed of this last project, he laughs yellow. For the past few years, like many others, the restaurant on Pie-IX has been affected by the situation.

Pie-IX: A decade of construction sites in Montreal North

Photo Felix Lacerte-Gauthier

“We had a delivery zone before which was in Laval. But with the work, it was made too difficult to cross and we had to transfer it to another restaurant”, gives as an example Mr. Landry, who has five restaurants in the chain under his responsibility, including that of Montreal North.

This, not to mention the loss of goodwill, which is difficult to quantify, linked to the discouragement of motorists.

Owner of the Rôtisserie Saint-Hubert, Maude Royal was able to buy her restaurant when the previous owner was exasperated by the surfacing work that had been prolonged. “It was in 2009, and in 2011, we started all over again,” she recalls, laughing at the irony of the situation.

Difficult stowage

“Pie-IX is as if it were the custodian of the difficulty of linking municipal projects with major structuring public transport projects. The boulevard is the repository of all these problems,” notes Ms. Pilette, from UQAM.

District, City-centre, government; many actors intervened on the boulevard, without their actions being necessarily well coordinated, according to the observations of the professor.

“Indeed, Boulevard Pie-IX has faced various challenges. You can see it in the duration of the work. In my opinion, it was also, unfortunately, a field that allowed us to learn a lot at the City”, recognizes Christine Black, the mayor of the borough.

She herself arrived in office in 2016, when discussions on the SRB were already well underway. Acknowledging that the last few years have been difficult, Ms Black is nevertheless optimistic about the future of the boulevard.

Pie-IX: A decade of construction sites in Montreal North

Photo Felix Lacerte-Gauthier

Towards a new beginning

Although the orange cones are still part of the scenery, the situation seems to be improving, as the boulevard is once again open to traffic and several obstacles have disappeared.

“We are on the verge of the end of this whole period of work there. I think that the traders, we showed solidarity. We joined in an association and we tried to breathe life into it despite the work and the physical pitfalls,” says Maude Royal, who is also president of the Pie-IX Montréal-Nord Merchants Association.

One of the main challenges ahead for his Association will be, once the final works have been completed, to convince citizens to return to the boulevard.

“We are in a trough. There, we have to go back up to resume our superb. People who now come to Pie-IX come out of spite. That’s what needs to change,” admits Ms. Royal.

The borough also wants to work there. Montréal-Nord also adopted, earlier in the year, a Special Planning Program (PPU) for the boulevard.

“We want to stimulate the arrival of projects in the coming months. There is a momentum that comes with the end of the work, ”believes Ms. Black. She recognizes that the challenge is there, but believes that the entire North Montreal community will collaborate.


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