David Russell

The road to Coquitlam is paved with good intentions

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Coquitlam Now, June 30, 2004 pg. 14

For some, it's the evenings stretching longer and closer to bedtime. Others know summer is near by the look of wild abandon in the eyes of the kids, barely containing their energy until that last bell on that last day of school signals freedom.

For Coquitlam residents, summer is heralded by the annual start of construction on Pinetree Way.

For those who have yet to venture towards the town centre in the past few weeks, the experience of idling in traffic through Coquitlam's core has reached its annual nadir, in which sitting stuck in two lanes of traffic has been reduced to sitting in just one -- once you've managed the "merge of death" maneuvering it takes to get there.

While Mariner Way runs a close second, no road in the city seems to receive the attention showered on the pathway from the foot of the mountain to the highway. And given the devotion the city seems intent on showing the thoroughfare, you'd think it would be in better shape.

Pinetree is currently reverted to its annual torn-up state, the southbound curb lane from the edge of Douglas College to the Coquitlam Centre parking lot closed, the pavement stripped, the gravel exposed to the elements like a long weekend camper whose tent has blown away in a sudden storm. Other than first stage destruction, little progress appears to have been made.

The road has lain prostrate for weeks, gathering pools of water, isolated from its fellow traffic lanes by platoons of orange pylon centurions, guarding the fallow pathways from who knows what perils vehicular traffic would present.

Even the purpose of the project itself is difficult to ascertain.

No material lies alongside the road to indicate pending pipe replacement. The condition of Pinetree Way, especially given its relative youth in comparison to older parts of the city, would hardly seem to make its upgrade or replacement a high priority.

City residents could surely name a dozen roads off the tops of their heads in more dire need of repair.

Glen Drive, running perpendicular to Pinetree or Westwood, running parallel just one block away, are just two examples.

Only last year, Pinetree and its travelling public suffered through weeks of construction, dust and delay while intersections from Barnet Highway back to Glen were torn up for what appeared to be the wholly esthetic purpose of installing five-foot wide, stone brick crosswalks.

Sure, they look nice, but it seems unlikely jaywalkers will be encouraged to cross at the lights simply for the enhanced experience of ambling across decorative brick. The installation of fences along the median largely eliminated that issue.

The dollars continue to travel much more quickly down Pinetree than any vehicle could hope, and at the risk of sounding predictably tightfisted, this is particularly difficult to swallow at the same time we are preparing to pay our annual property tax levies.

One knows roadwork is a seasonal endeavour and the sight of graders, pavers and spreaders should serve to remind us of the leisurely months of warmth and summer fun that lie in store.

Traffic delays are a cost we have to pay for progress. But given the continued growth of Coquitlam, maybe the city's traffic engineers could spread the pain around a little.

Pinetree needs to take a summer off.

Coquitlam resident David Russell is a freelance writer and contributing editor of Canadian Politics at Suite101.com.