Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Past Deadline: "I Survived the Reconstruction"

On Friday when I picked up the kids after school and commenced the walk home the most astounding thing happened.

For the first time in months my heart didn’t pound in my throat as the short people and I navigated a construction zone and heavy, impatient traffic on Isabella and Gore streets. Why? Because Wilson Street is finished! No more piles of dirt to negotiate! No more traffic jams to endure!

I know the whole process has not been a wonderful experience for all. Construction is much more than a pain in the butt and an inconvenience – it can cause financial hardship for businesses, major stress for homeowners and can pose all sorts of logistical nightmares. That said, though, I can’t help but feel it was a major accomplishment for the town and the contractors to finish the whole street – major underground infrastructure and all – in eight months while keeping at least part of the roadway open to traffic at all times.

Despite the fact it was much harder to get around than we are used to, we survived. Not only that, but many of us got to see places we don’t always frequent, such as Glen Tay, which makes a lovely detour when you just don’t want to travel north on Drummond at 3:30 on a weekday afternoon to get to Hwy. 7.

As much as it was a thrill to drive through the dirt after a heavy rain storm and experience craters and potholes and bumps that would shake your brains out of your ear, I’m pretty sure we’re all glad those days are over.

Because I walk the kids to school, I got a firsthand look at the progress on Wilson Street on a daily basis. Many days I wished this had happened five years earlier because I would have saved heaps o’ cash on the Mighty Machines video series. I’m confident my son and I would have pulled up lawn chairs to street corners to watch the variety of diggers and dozers and rollers. Pack a lunch and you’ve got a day’s entertainment.

Call me a geek (I’ve been called worse), but I felt more and more excited as the weeks passed and holes were finally closed over and dirt was flattened. When the curbs and sidewalks returned along our well-worn section of the street I was gleeful. After all, having to walk down Leslie Street and through the back field to Stewart School added an extra five minutes to our travel time. Not only that, but it restricted how much we could see of what those mighty machines were doing.

When the final paving began in earnest a couple of weeks ago I was jumpy with anticipation. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one grinning as I walked down the street. Even the paving crew looked happy. Speaking of which, I got to thinking it must be kind of crummy for the crews that precede the pavers. They do all the digging and nasty stuff and create all the detours and craters and get all the rude comments from irritated drivers and pedestrians. Then the pavers come along and make it all look pretty and tip their hats to the relieved drivers and walkers who are all smiley and grateful. I wonder if the various crews ever get into shoving matches about this?

Despite the fact I think things are looking darned fine, I met a fair number of people recently who have lots to say about crooked sidewalks, impossible intersections, incomprehensible line-painting jobs, planets out of alignment and so on. Well, I’m no engineer. I’m just going to weave down the sidewalk and follow the arrows when I’m driving.

Speaking of driving, when Friday afternoon rolled around and the lovely new street was finally wide open in both directions for that notorious 3:30 rush hour, lots of people were navigating northbound with smiles on their faces. It kind of reminded me of that part in the movie Cars when they all go cruising down the street after Lightning McQueen finishes the big paving job.

And, yes, it appears that most reference points in my life come back to children’s videos. Sigh.

Congrats to all involved with the Wilson Street reconstruction! Where can I buy the T-shirt?

Published in The Perth Courier, Nov. 24/10

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