Wednesday 27 Jul 2016

A Bridge Too Far
David Simmonds

It’s public infrastructure spending time again.


We won’t be as lucky this time as last.

Wellington, Ontario, did pretty well last time around. I don’t think we’ll be quite as lucky this time. The major urban mayors are already twisting Mr Trudeau’s arm; Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto have all but cashed their cheques.

What we may be looking for, then, is a ‘knock one out of the park’ project, which will show off the very best of Canadian design and engineering ingenuity. How about a bridge that crosses Lake Ontario, from Wellington to Rochester, New York, a distance of about 80 kilometres?

To put that in perspective, the Confederation Bridge between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island is 13 kilometres long. The longest bridge in North America is the Lake Pontchartrain causeway in southern Louisiana, which clocks in at just less than 40 kilometres.


Canadians, if nothing else, are resourceful.

Thus, it would be a massive challenge. Canadians are surely nothing if not resourceful, a word our prime minister himself uttered while in Switzerland mingling with the rich and connected. Building the bridge is a perfect opportunity to match rhetoric with action.

It would also be an economic winner. Think of all the traffic that has to get across Toronto on the 401 to make its way down to Niagara or Windsor in order to find its way across to the United States. Now, an eastern bridge from Wellington would suck up all that traffic and eliminate Toronto’s congestion problem, allowing everyone to work half an hour longer every day.

I grant you, the idea of a bridge faces a few obstacles. Would it be high enough for lake freighters to fit under or would a couple of spans have to open and close? Might it be on a central axis, with the border access points changing like the hands of a clock? What would the Americans do with their half of the bridge: would they even want to build it? I know our Prime Minister has persuasive powers that he can exercise just by shaking his ringlet-laden locks and posing for a photograph with admirers, but this may be a tough sell.


Maybe a pier instead of a bridge.

Maybe we have to scale back our imaginative leap just a tiny bit. What is the next best idea to a bridge? Why, a pier is the next best idea to a bridge.

We could sidestep the American problem and build a pier out from Wellington that ended in Canadian waters. At about 40 kilometres, it would be by far the world’s longest, eclipsing the relatively puny two kilometre long piece of engineering in Southend-on-Sea, England. If building a bridge was technically possible, it ought to be possible to modify it ever so slightly to create a pier.

For example, Canadian engineers would surely be smart enough to include a turn-around loop at the very end. This might help ensure the flow of traffic did not clog. There could also be turnaround points at, say, five kilometre stages and lookout points even more plentifully staged.

Just as the bridge would be a dead certainty in terms of producing an economic return, so too would be a pier. Already, tens of thousands of tourists come to the County, annually, to try out the Picton roundabout.

From an experiential standpoint, a pier would leave the roundabout in the dust. It would be a boon for local businesses. Picture the revenue hauled in by a souvenir booth selling T-shirts only available at the end of the pier.

Alternatively, imagine a for-profit public washroom, gas pump or automotive repair shop on the pier, priced to reflect market conditions. Besides, there’s nothing to say we can’t charge tolls for using the pier. We could price the tolls creatively, so that those turning back early or stopping at a look-off point would pay extra.

If we really wanted to make our money back quickly, we could always install slot machines or win-a-big-teddy-bear arcade games along the pier. Better yet, make the pier one giant LCBO store.

The name for our pier or bridge seems obvious. All we do is find an appropriate legendary NHL star and it’s a done deal, practically. After all, Windsor’s new international bridge is the Gordie Howe. The Rocket Richard family could have had his name on Montreal’s new bridge, had they wanted. The Bobby Hull pier or bridge seems a great fit; for that matter, call it Dennis or Bobby and Dennis or Dennis and Bobby. I’m not fussy.


How about a pedestrian bridge in Wellington?

So you think all of this international bridge or world’s longest pier business is dreaming in technicolour, do you? Well, I can think a little smaller. How about a pedestrian bridge, in Wellington; sit between the harbour and the tip of Sandbanks Provincial Park. Rounded to the nearest kilometre, it would be zero kilometres in length, and rounded to the nearest $10 million, it would cost nothing.

Actually, this was the idea I had wanted to put forward all along. I thought framing it as a compromise suggestion would make me seem more reasonable. Now that I’ve set out this pier idea, I’m inclined to think that it’s too good to let go.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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