25 August 2007

Why do I feel like Chicken Little?

Okay, so it isn't the sky, but the street which is falling. Or in danger of falling. For anyone who might be wondering just what I am talking about, you can read the actual news story here.

It's just the latest chapter in the history of our crumbling infrastructure, but an extreme example of hundreds of stores and offices closed indefinitely, along with the central portion of the green line of the Métro, because some leaking water has betrayed the existence of a giant crack in the slab of concrete supporting a block of the street above a Métro access tunnel.

Let's step back and look at this from the beginning.

That's too far! The crack you see there is the river around our lovely island, the only thing protecting us from the great hordes of the 450 area code around us! No, to focus in on the affected area, you have to get a lot closer.

Here is the same area, seen in panorama from street level:

Yes, this is downtown, next to the store the old timers in the city still refer to as Morgan's (we have a habit in Montréal of calling things by their old names, like we want to confuse the tourists), and next to the big office tower built next to the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral. The old timers among us will again recall some tidbits of history regarding the church and the building of the tower beside it and the mall beneath it.

First, the church has a kooky monument next to it which, as it turns out, is the former steeple. It seems the church was built on a swamp and the original steeple was too tall and too heavy for the land below to support, so it started leaning. They removed it, replaced it with an aluminum replica that was much lighter, and placed the original steeple on the ground next to the church to make people ask questions.

When the giant construction project was underway, passers-by were treated to this sight:

Not only did they excavate under the historical church to build the mall below, but in the process discovered a rare species of salamander in the historical swamp that halted construction for many months while the little creatures were painstakingly relocated. The other part of the construction story is the fine business sense of the church leaders: the whole project is part of an emphyteutic lease, meaning that ownership of the lucrative mall and office tower in this prime downtown spot will revert to the church at the end of the 99-year period of the lease.

Of course, this might seem less than brilliant at this moment with the area evacuated indefinitely!

These are the fears:

that our traditional attention to street quality

will lead to a larger type of collapse

bringing down not only the gleaming office tower behind the church

but also Morgan's (The Bay for anyone who has arrived in Montréal since the mid-1970's)

all of which will fall inward, collapsing into the McGill Métro station

I do have a suggestion to alter our infamously inscrutable parking signs, replacing this

with something more like this

I'm sure that we're all quite glad that all of that 'infrastructure' money (federal-provincial-municipal funding program) of the last couple of decades was spent on such useful items as hockey and canoe museums instead of on ensuring that half the water we purify doesn't leak into the ground and our streets don't collapse!

At least we don't have flaming balloons falling from the sky and igniting our trailer parks! (The trailer parks are all in the 450 anyway!)


Acid Reflux said...

You Montrealers are always setting the trend, our infrastructure is not crumbling nearly as fast as yours, but as with fashion trends, we are only a few years behind you!

Acid Reflux said...

Oh my, it's been years since I felt like chicken!

Ken Monteith said...

But has it been years since you felt chicken? ;-)

Zanna said...

Good words.