Thursday, December 20, 2012

$180 Million Spent And We're Right Back To Square One

I apologize ahead of time if you're reading this and are unfamiliar with the layout of Fort McMurray but  for anyone who's ever been stuck in traffic during the morning commute I'm sure you will be able to relate.

Back in early November, the 7th if I recall correctly, the Confederation overpass linking highway 63 to the Timberlea subdivision.  It was actually slated to open October 16 but the date was pushed back due to construction delays.  In hindsight, they probably should have just kept it closed.  Traffic flow on 63 northbound seemed pure ambrosia when just the Thickwood overpass (opened several months earlier) was in place....or at least if you lived in Thickwood it was, on most days anyhow.

Here is what I wrote when the Confederation overpass opened.  I noted then that even with the opening it would likely still take some time for the traffic situation to get sorted out.  Prophetic words.  Traffic seems to be no quicker and for the past couple of months I find myself arriving later for work than I did when neither overpass was opened.

Now, as it turns out, after spending a whopping $180 million, the powers that be are again making a change....by going right back to the way things were before, with a T intersection at the bottom of the hill leading onto the highway.  The overpass will be used only by site buses during the morning rush.  For everyone else, its back to the way things were before, traffic lights and all.  Yes, this is only a temporary fix, until construction is complete (completely complete this I take it) on the overpass.   I have to wonder what (if anything) goes through politicians' heads sometimes.  Predictably, there are commuters who are not impressed, myself included obviously.

I read a quote in a media article from one of our local MLA's Mike Allen (which I've spent several moments here trying to find, unfortunately) stating something along the lines of "Well, if we didn't open it, the overpass would just be sitting their as a big tease."  Yeesh, if I wanted a tease I could always head down to Showgirls and at least get what I paid for.  No Mike, I'm sure a lot of people would much rather just have the much-promised overpass (in working order, if ya don't mind) that their tax dollars paid for.

Living in Thickwood, this mess doesn't have as big of an impact on my travels as it would on someone from Timberlea, true.  But that's hardly the point.  And it gets worse actually.  Even assuming they get the overpass right, you'd still have a lights up at the industrial park which would delay traffic AND north of that delays due to the construction of yet another overpass.  Here's hoping some lessons are learned for when they start construction on the Parsons Creek overpass.  (At the the moment there's just a lot of dirt being pushed around in preparation.)

Back when I was a student in Windsor, I recall friends who grew up their telling me about how long it took for the expressway there to be built.  It took something like 11 years to build the EC Row Expressway in Windsor, Ontario.  I remember always thinking how ridiculous that sounded.  Now, I realize an expressway is not an overpass and recognize that there is an infrastructure lag here that is quite unique when looking at comparably-sized communities.  But seriously, if you're going to do something, do it right the first time.  If government can't get an overpass right I really do cringe at the thought of how much longer it will take to twin Highway 63.

Politicians give your head a shake!

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