By Melanie Scott
Everything has its price. Call it a trade-off. You get this; you forfeit that.
Living in the Hills has too many advantages to list in a short column. At the top, though, there is nature, the river, the quiet, the abundance of fresh air, and plenty of poutine.
On the flip side, there is commuting. Some dedicated folks are pushing for better public transit to cover more of our territory. Meanwhile, many of us are stuck in a traffic jam trying to do yoga breathing and not shoot the person in the car next to us à la ‘L.A. Story’. If anyone who’s made the daily commute were to add up the days (maybe years?) that they’ve spent idling, waiting for a break in the traffic, the results would be scary.
In winter, they cope with black ice and blinding blizzards. In summer, they get stuck in an endless maze of heavy equipment and workers and dust and potholes. When do they get a break?
At the risk of being called Euro-centric, I’m putting this out there: when they build a road in Europe, they build it to last. The curvy highways that lead to the Alps – where frost is just as much of a problem as it is here – are fabricated with better materials and smarter engineering. The North American penny-wise-pound-foolish approach results in our roads heaving every winter, meaning we have to do constant patch jobs that don’t last beyond another season. Sure, we’re creating employment by having to re-surface everything constantly, but why can’t we invest in superior engineering, which would require more engineers, and superior materials, which would mean more materials experts?
The extension for Hwy 5 will undoubtedly improve the commute for many. Cottagers will be able to avoid the Friday bottleneck until they reach the intersection of McLaren and Hwy 105 (a bottleneck at some point is inevitable, unless Hwy 5 goes all the way to Maniwaki, which it likely never will). We can predict, though, that by extending Hwy 5, traffic will increase. When traffic increases, wear and tear is more severe. The new stretch of Hwy 5 will be getting resurfaced before you can say, “grab a double-double at Timmy Ho”. Then, more idling while our tax dollars get swallowed up by the holes being filled, yet again.
It’s time for our politicians to go for a picturesque drive through the mountains to Interlaken. No potholes to swallow their Fiat. No cracks that bring forth visions of earthquakes. And when they do come across a construction crew, they’ll see how the built-to-last approach makes so much more sense. They’re doing it right. Why can’t we?