Some recent developments in River City that caught my ear…
In the past couple of weeks, the major Quesnell Bridge rehabilitation project wrapped up. It was supposed to have been completed in November 2010. Still, motorists sighed in relief and whisked along multiple lanes of fresh black asphalt and bright white lane markers. No wonder drivers are happy — the project’s been going on so long it seems to have been commissioned by Mayor “Smilin’ Bill” Smith.
Another major project way yonder on the south side of River City has wrapped up: the infamous 23 Avenue interchange project on Gateway Boulevard. City Council bumbled and fumbled this baby so badly they ended up throwing it and the bath water away in a wash of cost overruns to the tune of $186 million. A hefty $75 million project at decision time grew over several years of indecision into a $261 million monster by ground-breaking time. I’m sure I heard the ghost of former Montreal mayor, Jean Drapeau, quipping in a Quebecois whisper: The 23rd Avenue interchange can no more have a cost overrun than a man can have a baby. Ah well, it’s only money.
And what’s this I hear? Billionaire and Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz has left River City to live in the cosmopolitan, coastal burg of Vancouver? Hey, it’s a free world; the man can live where he wants to live. But ever since he bought the Oilers, his handlers and managers — and most of River City’s media — has hailed him as the saviour of Our Town, booster and upholder of all good things River City calls its own. Pulling up stakes to live on the wet coast seems puzzling, particularly when his hand is still out for $100 million taxpayer dollars to build his new arena. Or maybe it’s just me.