Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Great Bridge

Last month, that Strandherd-Armstrong bridge opened up to the public, months ahead schedule. It was greatly anticipated, and when I read the article about it in the local paper, it described the opening as a beautiful thing as families walked across it, the first cars drove across, and a councillor also went from one side to the other. Like it was a bridge to a whole new world of possibilities. Like two cities, having feuded for centuries, finally had a harmonious connection. It was a monument for the future, for generations to come. I'm pretty sure words along those lines were blithely put forward by the couple of city councillors, and mayor no doubt, upon completion of the bridge.

So, a week or so after, with it on my mind, I put my GoPro on the front hood of my car (via a suction cup mount), drove down Strandherd, and crossed the amazing bridge to meet these new possibilities - all in HD.
In approximately six seconds, I met them.

On the other side, there was an Independent, a bank, and a small host of other retail places in the strip mall around it. Otherwise, houses fairly new, and houses just finished construction made up the rest of the landscape, houses that were identical to the ones in Barrhaven, mostly. What a new world.

In the following weeks, I tried using the bridge over the Huntclub one to get to or from South Keys. Earl Armstrong to Limebank Road; Leitrim to Bank Street. Being dusk both times I went, I hadn't recently seen such a lonely, forlorn route. The roads are all small country two-lanes, with some forest, and at one point you pass the southern boundary of the airport, which gives one a slight alien feeling as you pass all the low-rise light towers, atop which sit glaring alien-like red lights. I'm sure it's a good place for photographers to gather to capture images of low-descending airplanes as they come in for the runway.

Coming to the bridge from the Riverside South direction, you don't actually see the road. The bridge has a downhill angle as the east bank is higher than the west bank (which is also true for the Huntclub bridge) and because the bridge is so short, the downhill angle is enough to make it look like you're not even crossing a river at all.

This bridge, I read (in the paper and later on Wikipedia) was first conceived in 1993. Twenty-one years ago. Then it just beat around the bush in the far corners of municipal government bureaucracy for years until the eastward development of Barrhaven really started fuelling congestion in between the Manotick and Huntclub bridges over the last ten years. When they finally started going forward with plans, it went through a year of consultations and environmental impact statements like usual before finally going forward - before the contractor then went bankrupt and delayed the bridge's construction for another two years. The fact it was finished months before its September opening was a huge miracle, apparently.

This really just goes to show how stupid silly little things can go. It's a tiny bridge. I counted the seconds - it really takes six seconds to cross it at the speed limit. It's 143 metres long. Gee. They narrowed the river over where it crosses. It should have been a no-brainer. Instead it was brought up and talked about and planned and bankrupted a contractor and sensationalized and ultimately glorified until everyone was throwing confetti just to spend six seconds driving to Riverside South or Barrhaven. Where was the fireworks?  I didn't read about those. There's nothing fancy about it other than the eye-catching trusses they built into a nifty pattern. I think those trusses are what made everyone focus on it, while meanwhile Jockvale Road just got its bridge replaced and doubled with virtually no notice or comment or "oh my god!" I wonder what the reception was like when the Huntclub bridge came along in the late 80s. It's much longer by comparison and while it might not have a fancy arch design or special bus lanes (that's another thing - Strandherd has cycle and bus lanes!) it's roomy and accommodating.

I personally think that this bridge, while it does have its definite merits (a co-worker who lives in Riverside South had his commute cut down by forty minutes) was howled about and sensationalized and written about and delayed quite literally to the stupid point for such a little bridge. Compared to any bridge crossing the much wider Ottawa River, or bridges like the Heron Road one which is divided into two and crosses two water channels and a road, or the Huntclub bridge, this should have been a piece of cake. Six seconds. Boy, oh boy. The most ironic thing about it is when I tried the old way, via Huntclub; that route actually felt, amazingly, shorter than the winding country/airport route. I live in Barrhaven. I'm further south than South Keys. Yet the old way felt shorter.

It's a great thing for people living in Riverside South, but otherwise, everyone - the municipal government, city councillors, media, Prime Minister, whatever - stop taking such trivial things to the stupid level. The Jockville bridge replacement added a second bridge for the northbound lanes. Heard about it maybe once or twice. I bet that one was easy. It was the fancy arching truss design overtop that had everyone focusing on it. That future look. That and the fact it connected Riverside South directly with Barrhaven.

Red Cloud

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