Thursday, 19 March 2015



Take It to the – Whoa! Stop! Stop!


There is a road in Edmonton called Groat. It snakes through a deep ravine down to the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River. If you like to drive and if you’ve got the type of car that tells others you like to drive, Groat’s insanely twisting turns are really fun to drive. It’s a major artery to a crossing in a city riven by a river. Groat Road also courses beneath the 102nd Avenue Bridge, a crucial east-west span that traverses the gaping ravine and moves heavy traffic in and out of downtown.


It’s a charming quirk of urban geography that Groat Road and 102nd Avenue don’t actually intersect because of the variance in their respective heights, but what went up and over must eventually be replaced. The bridge was closed July 1, 2014. The $32-million upgrade was scheduled to be completed 15 months hence, this fall. Businesses located at either end of the bridge have seen patronage, wait for it, drop off.


Thirty-two million bucks is an abstract number to most of us. If you read the sports section, you think, Ah, maybe a five-year deal for a decent professional hockey player. Most Canadians live in densely populated urban areas. Trouble is, unlike their more voracious federal and provincial counterparts, municipal governments are limited in their ability to raise funds through taxation and other methods. The buck stops at city hall and the mayor is obligated to provide each one of us with our interpretations of essential services which we perceive as rights and not privileges.


Alberta is treed with signs touting the Harper government’s Economic Action Plan and the decrepit Government of Alberta’s own benevolent infrastructure initiatives. If Edmonton were to follow the same propaganda route, the City would have to hire a calligrapher with his own black Marks-A-Lot. So a lengthy, albeit necessary, $32-million project guaranteed to piss off commuters and business owners is an expensive undertaking on many levels.


Since most of us live in the real world, most of us understand that nothing ever goes quite as planned. Sometimes things go drastically, disastrously wrong. Groat Road was closed last weekend because of work from above. The bones of the new 102nd Avenue Bridge were to be installed. Seven steel girders, each measuring 41 metres in length and weighing 40 tonnes apiece were to be braced into place across the ravine. The process stalled and then ceased for safety’s sake in the wake of 70 kph winds. Sometime early Monday morning four of the monstrous manufactured beasts buckled like wet cardboard.

How does structural steel become al dente spaghetti? Apparently there was a domino effect. Officials are saying that last weekend’s closure of Groat Road must now extend into mid-April at the very least and perhaps for another 11 months after that. There are questions about the integrity of the manufactured metal and possible flaws in the new bridge’s design. Was the girders’ installation inadvertently botched due to adverse weather conditions? Can the warped girders be repaired? Nobody knows now. And nobody knows the eventual tally of a civic construction schedule and budget blown all to hell. We do know that the 102nd Street Bridge must eventually open and that Edmontonians will cross it once they’re able to get to it.

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