(This post is pretty localized, but anyone who has had to endure major construction in a small town can probably relate.)
Folks in Perth now have something to talk about besides the weather: Wilson Street. It’s always nice to have new things to talk about, yes?
Did you realize there are exciting side opportunities to this construction? I’m talking about things beyond the promise of a street that won’t wreck your car or knock your teeth out as you drive it, not to mention having water pipes updated from the 1920s and the addition of an inviting gateway to our downtown. The reduced risk of being swallowed up by a sinkhole and sucked into the depths of heck is good, too.
Still, there is no arguing the fact the construction is massively inconvenient and, for some, quite a hardship. It’s also not ideal that the town had to act quickly with a project that was “shovel ready” (as opposed to one requiring massive, lengthy studies like a bypass) in order to receive provincial and federal grants. It definitely limited choices. However, Wilson Street very obviously needed work and if someone else will pay for most of it, that’s not too shabby.
So what to do about that inconvenience? I figure our choices are to a) leave town for the duration or b) find the silver lining.
For those of us for whom leaving town is not a viable option, my take on the silver lining is three “Remarkable Opportunities.” The silver lining came to me last week, when the ribbon of pylons stretched from Isabella to the mall for the first time and drivers were forced to actually try to pay attention as they drove (which was not overly successful based on the number of people I saw brazenly driving the wrong way).
I see three Remarkable Opportunities:
1) Wilson Street can make us physically fit.
2) The construction provides a nice community social experience.
3) The congestion helps us to appreciate why we don’t choose to live in Toronto.
The Wilson Street Fitness Plan occurred to me when I realized I could walk home from my kids’ school faster than I could drive. We don’t drive every day to school, but I informed the kids we would be driving even less, at least on my watch. I’m lucky enough to live within walking distance of anything I need on Wilson Street and, since I have taken up running, I can get there much faster. Okay, um, slightly faster.
I’m also going to use my bike more even though I have been “recovering” from a fall since 1988 and still have anxiety issues about biking. Since Drummond Street is busier with the detour traffic, though, I can sneak around on side streets when I have to go farther afield. Last week I rode to and from Algonquin College and SURVIVED! (Not a big deal to most, but a cause for celebration for me.)
This resolve to walk, run and bike to get around has benefits beyond fitness, too. It means one less vehicle adding to the congestion and pollution while idling in a line-up.
Secondly, and this is a nice segue into my next Remarkable Opportunity, it’s more social. As I spend more time on foot along the affected roadways I have the chance to chat with other walkers and even the drivers who are waiting, windows down, to get somewhere. It’s a lovely way to get to know people or connect with friends – and to commiserate about these woes.
I often chat with Lloyd the Crossing Guard at the corner of Wilson and Isabella and get updates on the silly things he has seen drivers do. (Hopefully that whole “driving the wrong way on the southbound lane” thing will be resolved soon. Maybe in another column I’ll think of some potential solutions to that problem, such as spike belts.)
My final Remarkable Opportunity is that perhaps the construction will help to remind us of why we choose to live here. Yes, we have to add extra time to our travels these days, but ultimately we’ll have a beautiful street to show for it. In Toronto, you add time to your trip just because – construction or not.
My favourite is still the fitness aspect, though. I’m hoping to have lost a good 10 pounds by fall.
Published in The Perth Courier, April 29/10.