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road sage

We live in uncertain times beset by innumerable fears. Change is not only perpetual; it seems to be the single enduring characteristic of our era and we're not talking good change, we're talking climate change, regime change, and financially, mostly spare change. It's in times like these that we find solace in the constants in our lives. We seek hope in the perennial signposts of existence.

Some find comfort in family, love and religion. All are worthy choices yet, to me, these are still a little too flighty. There is only one thing that will endure when all else fades away: God may come and go but road construction is forever.

When night falls and I am locked in that "real dark night of the soul" in which Fitzgerald wrote, "it is always three o'clock in the morning," I find consolation in the fact that, no matter what happens, no matter what strange turns life takes, there will always be construction at the corner of Lake Shore Boulevard and Leslie Street. Always.

It will never end.




In 200 years, riders on flying bicycles will curse the fact that their journeys take them to the corner of Lake Shore and Leslie. In the year 3018, mutant insect people will buzz messages back to their hives complaining about the construction at the corner of Lake Shore and Leslie.

For all eternity shall construction workers stand and smoke beside this monument to half-done tasks. For all eternity shall commuters sit and stew in giant snail-like car-cages. Capitalism will crumble. Quebec will actually separate. End times will come but this traffic nightmare will endure. In the fall of 2013, when construction began, the sign read: "Expect Delays Sept. to Nov. 30." It has changed many times since and now reads: "Delays March to May 11." Yet I know, just as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow, that on May 11 a civic worker will change the sign to read: Delays: May 12 to Aug. 14."

Nothing changes. When I look at the construction at Lake Shore and Leslie I see no progress whatsoever. I see the same dirty concrete, the same orange cones, and the same endless traffic jam. So far as my naked eye can tell, this has been the construction plan: Dig big hole. Scatter pylons. Erect delay signs. Begin production on the new reality show, "World's Funniest Man-made Torture Zones."

My experience is not unique. Every city has its Lake Shore and Leslie. I polled the Twittersphere and received many such places:

In Ottawa: "Rideau Street and not because of LRT, seemingly just because."

In Sudbury: "LaSalle Street is especially awful."

In New Brunswick: The "Trans Canada between Northern N.B. and Rivière-du-Loup. Even the finished part has pylons!"

In Calgary: Calgarians can look forward to a new hell on earth courtesy the impending $1.8-billion construction on the SW ring road.

Toronto, being large and self-important, has many:

"Adelaide between Jarvis and Bay has literally been under construction for 10 years."

"Kingston between Birchmount and Main, arggh! It will never end."

To these I add: "Union Station disaster zone."

These sites cause a lot of suffering. Yet, instead of complaining, perhaps we should celebrate them.

Maybe cities should erect signs similar to the heritage plaques used to commemorate landmark buildings. We could stick them in front of never-ending road construction sites.


"Lake Shore and Leslie"
2013 to Eternity

Begun to create the "Leslie Barns" light-rail vehicle storage facility. Construction was projected to take 12 weeks but has since been extended until nature implies that it would be contradictory for it to exist; and whose nature implies that it would be contradictory for it not to exist.


Not everyone shares my faith in our inability to complete road construction and not every place on earth is as woefully phlegmatic. In the time it's taken you to read this column, a four-lane thoroughfare was started and completed in Shanghai. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that some day they will complete construction at the corner of Lake Shore and Leslie; that Ottawa's Rideau Street will be free of maintenance crews.

If that moment arrives, citizens will heave the proverbial collective sigh of relief. They'll rejoice. For me, it will be a bittersweet moment. Sure, the source of so much grief will have vanished. We will have gained a functioning road. But what did we lose? We'd have lost a tribute to the human race's everlasting ability to never finish what it starts. If asked to give the eulogy I would say, "I hated the corner of Lake Shore and Leslie with every breath I drew. It was an awful eyesore that delayed me on countless occasions but I knew I could count on it always being there … and making me late."

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