A couple weeks ago, the City's Infrastructure Services Department held a press event whereby they used Bronson Avenue as an example to showcase the many things that go on beneath the surface—literally—when the city rebuilds a road. Being dug up, it was opportune to demonstrate the watermains, feedermains, hydro, sewers, Bell, Rogers, gas, and other utilities that all have to squeeze under the street. As it happens, the media briefing was scheduled for the same time as Premier McGuinty's keynote speech at the AMO conference and most of the City Hall press corps was covering that.
Still there were a handful of journalists there and some stories came out of it, including two in the EMC and the Metro.
I went along to check it out, and managed to get a 3D photo of the journalists interviewing the City's engineers. In the vests from left to right are Ziad Ghadban, manager of municipal construction projects on the east side* of the city; Wayne Newell, General Manager of Infrastructure Services for the City; and Bruce Kenny, the project manager for the Bronson Avenue reconstruction project.
As it happens, just a few days before this media event, Ottawa Citizen columnist Kelly Egan wrote a column in which he rhetorically asked why it takes so long to build a road, given the length of time and the extent of disruption that has been caused by the Bronson Avenue construction on the street's businesses. I say "rhetorically" because he didn't bother to wait for an answer and instead assumed, without knowing the scope of the work, that the project could have been finished many times faster.
(Aside from living and working within two blocks of it, Bronson Avenue is one of the files I work on in Councillor Diane Holmes' office, and prior to working in her office I was on the Public Advisory Committee as the CCCA representative, so I'm rather familiar with the back end also. There are many legitimate complaints about ways the City or the contractors have screwed up in terms of communication, but the underlying work has many many constraints that make this a difficult job for any crew. Incidentally, nobody from the Citizen, including Egan, came to the Bronson Avenue media briefing.)
I had written back in January of 2011 about the former gas station at the southeast corner of Bronson and Gladstone, Norm Egan's Esso, and I suspect that's a clue to why Kelly Egan's attention is drawn to Bronson Avenue.
It's a pity that Egan put out that uninformed column about the construction process, because it took away from the more important story about the plight of the businesses on Bronson Avenue. He wrote such a column back in July focusing on this issue.
Bronson Avenue's businesses are at a disadvantage because they depend on passing traffic (both vehicular and pedestrian) for customers, and they don't have a BIA like most of the other commercial streets in Centretown do to promote the street with advertising campaigns. They're nearly all owner-operated. Many places have had to cut staff and reduce their hours, and most business owners are squeezing by, worrying about how they'll make the next mortgage payment on their house. The Quizno's has closed and is being renovated into a new restaurant.
The Bronson construction has an impact on everyone, from the noise endured by residents and business owners, to the detoured traffic cutting through neighbourhood streets, to the occasional disruption of water or power, and of course the massive drop in customers suffered by the businesses. The appearance of the street will improve significantly when the work is all done and the new landscaping is in, but the businesses will need to make it to that point if they're going to reap the benefits of a nicer street. Whenever you can, please visit some of the many restaurants, takeout places, hair salons and car shops along Bronson Avenue.
[Tune in on Thursdays at noon for a new 3D image. View the 3D label for other posts with 3D images]