Montreal underwent a huge construction boom in the early 1960’s in preparation for Expo 67. While most of these public works projects had life-spans of 60-70 years, they are already crumbling way prematurely and in often deadly fashion (bridge and tunnel collapses). Officials credit unforeseen population growth, road salt, etc., but most Montrealers know that it’s actually graft and corruption; I often wonder how many chalets were built in the Laurentians and Eastern Townships from “leftover” materials and corner-cutting, not to mention absentee workers punched-in by their union buddies.

The net result is that today we face a catastrophic situation where it’s almost impossible to find a route to anywhere that doesn’t have major construction on it. Adding fuel to the fire, the astonishing incompetence of public works managers has them working simultaneously on parallel routes, effectively bringing Montreal to a crawl.

The individual psychological effect is fascinating however. “Think local” is my new mantra; we now go almost nowhere that isn’t within about a 5 km radius (even that is getting ambitious, construction-wise). Farmers’ markets have sprung up like mushrooms, and new local restaurants and stores compete quite effectively for the downtown dollar. The bicycle, at least in the 8 months without snow, is becoming increasingly attractive as transportation for short hops. So, while I lament and rail against my new-found imprisonment, good things come from adversity; people adapt and the market adapts with them (or vice-versa).

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