Many years ago, there was a popular song about a man riding the rails in Boston, a man who “never returned and his fate is still unlearned.” Jump to present-day Edmonton, substitute the rails for the roadways and we might all be the man who never returned. Specifically, I speak of the roads and highways of Edmonton, or as they should be entitled, the Mazes of Hell.
For many years, I wondered why our municipal and provincial governments never seemed to fix the roads. I know I’m not alone in this as family, friends and neighbours spoke daily of their near death experience on local motorways. In fact, many speculated that the Soviet Union never invaded Canada simply because it feared its tanks could never hold up to the abuse they would receive on our roads.
Well, after many years of wondering, the various governments have responded to my questions and over the last few years, have responded with a road repair and road construction regime that is both massive and menacing at the same time.
I drive daily into downtown Edmonton, and after many months of constant delays and detours, I decided to find a route that had no construction under way. It took a while, but I did lay out a route that took me north to Slave Lake, east to Saskatoon, southwest to Holden, and then northeast along some unpaved cow trails into our downtown core. Unfortunately, I also found that I had to leave on Wednesdays in order to get to work by Monday.
Worse yet are the constant delays caused by the need to slow down in construction areas. I religiously obey these lowered speed limits, as fines double in cost if one is caught speeding and with the current costs of fines, a doubling likely leads to a value somewhat similar to the national debt of Greece. It remains frustrating, however, as one crawls along a roadway, watching the snails pass you on the sidewalk and not seeing a worker within a light year of actually working on the site.
As bad as the construction frenzy we have on our local roads, it pales in comparison to the activity associated with our Anthony Henday quagmire. The last time I looked at a compass, there were only four directions — east, west, north and south (or, if you insist, there are eight directions when we consider northeast, southwest and so on). Despite my compass skills, the engineers on the Anthony Henday seem to have invented a number of new directions. How else do we explain one small area that has 13 overpasses all pointing in different directions? Not since the construction of the Great Wall of China have so many workers been employed on one project and, I fear, the completion of our project might match the 1,200 years it took to finally complete.
When I first viewed the excavations for the northern arm of the Anthony Henday, it brought to mind the earthwork done to protect Moscow from the advancing Nazi armies in 1941. The only difference is the speed of the construction. Had the Russians taken as long to build the defences as we are taking on our new roadway, Adolph Hitler would have spent the summer of 1942 at the Moscow Holiday Inn, enjoying borscht and fine Russian caviar.
As taxes pay for roads, after paying such taxes for 40 years, Brian McLeod is now the proud owner of six square inches of asphalt just east of the slaughterhouse.