I had an opportunity to spend some time on l’Autoroute de la Côte-de-Liesse on foot one rainy day last week. Don’t ask — just trust that I sometimes make decisions like these on very little sleep.
The picture I posted not only depicts the industrial/commercial blight one is immersed in on Côte-de-Liesse, but somehow also captures the emotional state the area imposes on a pedestrian. So far as I could tell, everything is walkable — sidewalks line the road, and where cross-streets like Cavendish are overpassed, there are stairs up and down on each side to form a pedestrian crossing. Bus service was reasonable. But I left the area feeling like a refugee. Never have I been so grateful to see the bus arrive at my stop.
Côte-de-Liesse has been much the way it is now since the 1960s. The road had served as an important artery between the city and the airport during World War II, and with the easy access and cheap land, commercial buildings lined the street through the 1950s. During the preparations for Expo ’67 the road’s transformation into a freeway was complete.
Until the municipal merger, the responsibility for design and development of the area fell to four separate jurisdictions (I’ll hazard that they are Dorval, Ville St-Laurent, Montréal and Côte-St-Luc) Côte-de-Liesse was left to fester like an icky eyesore — treeless, concrete-coloured, bleak and soul-killing. And for a utilitarian route, it’s not even that functional — traffic jams here just as it does on the highways, particularly nastily at the ends.
The Montreal Master Plan 2004 [PDF, 668k] bemoans all of these egregious planning and design problems, and presents the possibility of foliage, signage and reduced setbacks that would make Côte-de-Liesse less like a concrete wasteland and more like a suburban boulevard. Maybe I’m a cynic, but I think our friend is too far gone for much improvement.
By the time my bus departed, my ears were ringing, my nose was stuffy, and my mood was bummed out, but in a strange way I have a small affection for this idiosyncratic, homely little highway.
Here are a couple of links, so you can read and think more about Côte-de-Liesse than you ever dreamed possible, or even desired:
4A-520 on Montrealroads.com
4Côte-de-Liesse at the ever-fascinating Exitlists.com
4Photos of the Côte-de-Liesse & Dorval Circle overpass by Flickr user Ben Soo.