Augustus Caesar ruled the Roman Empire for approximately 40 years, from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D. During that time, he doubled the size of the empire, such that it eventually stretched from Great Britain to almost India. However, his most impressive accomplishment is best appreciated by listening to his own words: “I found Rome of clay, I leave it to you of marble.” Indeed, Augustus left Rome a far grander city that it was when he first gained control. Among his building projects were three new (and massive) aqueducts stretching for miles, the rebuilding of Circus Maximus, a new building for the Roman Senate, the Theatre of Marcellus and a brand new basilica, to name just a few.
I was thinking of this the other day when I drove down McKenney Avenue, past the new Riverside subdivision and on to where it connects to Ray Gibbon Drive. Now, remember, Augustus had no electrical power, no cranes, forklifts or other mobile equipment, few of the building products we have today, no communication equipment, computers, very limited engineering talents and absolutely no construction machinery. Despite this, in 40 years, he left Rome a city of marble.
As I drove down McKenney, the first thing that struck me was the minor project to add a turn lane into what will be the new shopping center to be built in Riverside. In the grand scheme of things, this was an incredibly small project, although it took months to get this work done. Meanwhile, someone in their infinite wisdom had the speed limit changed to 30 km/hour. Now, when equipment is running and workers are working, I can appreciate the need to slow down and be careful. However, I drive this road every day, and for the last seven weeks, I haven’t seen a single worker within miles of this project, I’ve seen no equipment of any kind working (or even present), no supplies or materials – in fact no activity of any kind. I’m assuming the project must be over, but if so, then why are the speed limit signs still in place? And if the project is not over, then why is no work being done on the roadway, week after week?
While pondering these weighty questions, I also glanced across to the Lacombe Lake Park. On this site, there is activity – lots of workers, trucks all over the place, building materials piled up in numerous locations, earth-moving machinery – you name it, it’s on site. The problem is that the construction project at Lacombe Lake Park has been going on for years, with no obvious end in sight. I suspect there must be trouble at this site, as I could only count four people working, but 38 people standing around in discussions. I hope everything works out OK. My granddaughter mentioned to me the other day she can’t remember a time when there was no construction going on in this park. As a point of reference, firstly, she has a very good memory, and secondly, she’s 12 years old!
At the rate these two projects are getting finished, I need to call Augustus and see if Circus Maximus had been finished yet. After all, it’s only been 2,010 years since they started! True, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Lacombe Lake Park looks like it won’t be built in a century.
Brian McLeod is a St. Albert resident.