This is the Nation's Capital and our roads are worse than Quebec's. Yes, I just said this out loud, or rather, typed it where others can read it. When I was little, I can distinctly remember taking trips out east. New Brunswick, to be precise. With that trip always came a few common moments. We stopped at the same gas stations. We brought out the same chips and mock-chicken sandwiches. I usually slept on the deck of the rear window of my dad's Pontiac, right over the speakers where I could drape my head over the side of the seat look forward, or turn around and watch the pavement fall away behind the car. Upon approaching the Quebec border, you could count on two things: 1) We would all start a sentence in English, then finish it in French crossing the line laughing as if we'd never done this before, and 2) The road would go from Ontario's smooth asphalt symphony to the bouncing weather beaten corduroy of Quebec's budget cuts. Ottawa feels like Quebec did back then. So do the budget cuts.
Have we ever known the state of Ottawa's roads to be in worse condition than they are right now? I currently drive the 95 route up and down Ottawa's busiest route, and I honestly fear that the farebox might walk out the door one afternoon as I white-knuckle my way across this city. There has been no safe speed in the bus lanes along the 174 for almost a year now.
Last week JP Auger was driving along the 174 and fell into a sinkhole. This has been well publicized, so we all know the story. He didn't realize that it was a giant hole until it was too late. How bad are your roads that a man cannot distinguish between the garbage road behind him and the giant hole in front of him? If you have driven the 174 over this past summer, you would understand where I am going with this. The city made a series of pavement cuts from "The Split" at HWY 417 to just past Montreal road. One hundred and sixteen of them to be precise. They then patched these cuts, turning the 3km stretch of roadway into a wagon ride through a field. It is absolutely no wonder that Mr. Auger didn't notice the giant hole until the last second.
Now I won't blame a sinkhole on poor road maintenance. But I think the city's poor road maintenance played a huge role in Mr. Auger's entry into it. The city's poor planning is also a major factor in the gridlock. Had this happened in the city's west end, where the province maintains the Trans-Canada highway, the cars could be rerouted to the other side of the 8 lane highway that feeds Kanata.
Orleans however, even with it's similar-to-Kanata population, is stuck with the city maintained cow-path (formerly a part of the Trans-Canada) called the 174. The road is absolutely atrocious, and the only detour route takes you to a poorly designed traffic circle. Hilarity ensues.
The east end is easily the worst prepared part of the city when a major traffic problem occurs because the city doesn't build roads out here the way the province does in the west. We get shafted in Orleans, plain and simple.
We cannot do anything about hindsight. So what do we do about this sinkhole situation?
For starters, try taking the bus. Yes, the OC Transpo bus. You're already reading a bus driver's blog, so get on the bus and talk to a bus driver. This is the ONLY other option you have to gridlock. It is your best option. It'll save you a few hours of sitting on St. Joseph boulevard. Either way, here's a few things to do while waiting in the detoured traffic:
- You could try to figure out how to move the sinkhole downtown, and let the LRT tunnel dig itself.
- You could bring all of those leaflets that Royal Galipeau sent you a few months ago and throw them in the sinkhole. It's not like we've heard from our MP during this crisis. Can't expect his Action Plan to do anything for his riding, can we? Or Phil McNeeley while on the topic of politicians that should be doing something. It's a city matter, right clowns?
- You could drive up to Anderson road and wait in that lineup instead.
- You could read the @174sinkhole's twitter feed. It's sorta funny sometimes. Mostly bad taste "swallow" jokes and retweets, but we already knew it had bad taste. It ate a freaking Hyundai Accent, didn't it?
- You could call that militant Francophone association that made the big stink about changing all signage from Orleans to Orléans. Just tell them a guy named JP Auger was stripped of his accent, and that when he came to, he insisted the JP stood for Juan Pedro. Sit back, and enjoy the feux d'artifice.
- You could try to figure out what to do about Ottawa's newest environmental threat: the fact that every time it rains now highway traffic will flow directly into the Ottawa river, raising the E-Test-coli counts to levels that will shut down our public beaches.
- You could just pretend you live in a city with real traffic problems, like say Toronto, where a two hour commute is considered to be a good drive home.
- You could take the city's advice and have your employer let you out early, thereby staggering the leaving times for a better commute closer to noon than three o'clock. Or as Federal employees call it... "Friday".
Either way, good luck out there this week. I look forward to the reopening of the 174 as much as the rest of you. If not for the reduction in traffic and the return from detour hell, then for the Olympic pool sized patch of brand-spanking-new asphalt that east end residents are having installed.
I'm going to slow right down as I approach that new patch of smooth asphalt heaven next week. I'll relive my childhood road trips for a few seconds, and as I drive back onto the old pavement, I'll put on an accent as I return grudgingly to the bumpy old 174.