Premature highway elation


by admin on December 9, 2009

Where was the pomp? The circumstance?

For more than two years Gatineau Hillers have been driving the 105 for with bated breathe, narrowly avoiding accidents as they crane their necks westward to catch a glimpse of the construction of the much-anticipated Hwy 5 extension. We’ve endured slowed traffic around day-glow orange pylons, tree cutting, rock blasting, the bulldozing and paving of Meech Creek Valley.

We are rural people – by definition we live and breathe by our cars. Besides reality TV shows and high-speed internet (which only half of us have) highways are our lifelines to the outer world. The opening up of four lanes of smooth, civilized pavement is a big deal!

What marked the exciting opening day? A couple of construction guys in fluorescent orange vests moving aside same coloured pylons and then just waving the traffic through.

Even the wild turkeys, which seem to be gathering with increasing frequency around the new north end exit, would agree it was anti-climactic.

I recall a lot more excitement the last time a new section of Hwy 5 was opened. (Of course, that stretch of highway has a certain poignancy for me, as I was about 17 when they were finishing it up. At the time, I was associating with a gang of misguided local youth who hiked through the forest to the construction site, where they found their young, zitty, male fantasy come true. The construction workers had left the keys in the big toys. I watched in simultaneous horror / glee as my friends jumped behind the wheel and drove giant dump trucks into each other. Fortunately for the publisher’s daughter, this story has never appeared in the local rag until now. Apologies, dad.)

But then, that new highway extension offered 13 km of seamless cruising among the tree tops and carved out Canadian Shield to a final dramatic descent back to the piddling 105. It provided a great view Chelsea’s neighbourhood beaver ponds and the backside of Gatineau Park. It felt like a big-leagued highway.

Returning home from a weekend trip to the States, my gentleman friend and I suddenly found ourselves gasping, “Oh what? Hey! It’s… Oh, it’s open!” as we continued straight where we were once forced to exit. We had just enough time to say, “Oh my, when did they open th-” when the lights at the end of the section appeared and we were forced into a hard right exit to the 105 junction.

I had been anticipating driving this new territory for so long. It was over so quickly. It felt like premature highway elation (feel free to fill in the two missing syllables).

Michael called it “a little fart of a highway”.

Twenty-seven million dollars for 2.5 km.

Is that why neither MNA Vallee or MP Cannon never showed? The new section is so anticlimactic the politicians who made much media hay over its future construction would rather skip the final oversized-scissors-ribbon-cutting photo op?

Maybe so, but this little fart of a highway is our little fart of a highway. It bypasses the notorious “killer curve” at Pine Rd and is the next step to the extension all the way to Wakefield.

And for that we are grateful.