Sunday, August 21, 2016

Lifecycle of a pothole

The 2006-2007 reconstruction of Bank Street between Wellington and Laurier is the first major road reconstruction projects I photographed, albeit much less than subsequent ones. These multi-million-dollar reconstructions are designed to revitalize the underground infrastructure beneath our streets to last for decades to come. The surface situation can be a different story, however.

I took interest in one particular manhole cover at Bank and Slater, and took photos of it every now and then as I passed by the location on my bike, and so begins our story...

In June 2007, the sidewalks were finished and the tree pits installed outside the former location of the Shopper's Drug Mart in what is now called the Jack Layton Building. The roadway, meanwhile, was still in gravel:

In early September 2007, the first lift of asphalt was laid down. Of the stores visible in this photo, the Moores and the Money Mart are still there, the GNC and Blue Gardenia having closed since.

By September 20, 2007, the final lift of asphalt was laid down and the road reopened with lovely wide sidewalks for the high volumes of pedestrians who travel here.

A year later, in November 2008, the road surface still appeared to be in good condition. A new multi-unit newspaper box was installed at the corner of Bank and Slater as a trial, but it remains a one-of-a-kind in Ottawa (since nobody wants to own them). The Starbucks is the only surviving business at this location, with the Shawarma Laguna replaced with another mediterranean restaurant, and Stroked Ego having replaced the second-floor Perfection Hair Design & Spa.

Still in November 2008, we see a circular manhole cover right near the newspaper multibox.

One way that road construction crews make manhole covers level with the road surface is by placing concrete spacer rings underneath them, like these pictured in a later reconstruction on Bronson. In the foreground of the photo are square ones for catchbasins, and behind the traffic barrels are some round ones for manholes. (I am not certain if the Bank Street reconstruction used these spacers were used at this location or if the manhole covers were installed at a fixed height)

By July 2010, some cracks had started to develop around this particular manhole. A lot of traffic goes over this, which can put a lot of pressure on the infrastructure. I can't tell if our manhole is for water or sewer or what, despite being installed six years after amalgamation it still uses the old "Ottawa-Carleton" label. My guess would be for watermain service. Note that the nearby square catchbasin cover doesn't have any broken asphalt around it. Your guess for why is as good as mine.

I took that photo in 2010 with the specific intent of keeping an eye on this manhole cover to see how long it would take for it to get to a point where it needed to be repaired, and I've taken photos periodically ever since.

November 2011, some pieces of asphalt had fallen out.

May 2012, even though the hole in the previous photo was filled in, you can start to see the metal ribs on the edge of the manhole lid.

July 2012, the pothole is in more or less the same state, but a Hydro Ottawa road cut has joined it.

August 4, 2012, some trash, not much else.

It was looking this way for many more years, but when I double-checked Google Street View in preparing this post, I saw that later that same month some asphalt had been applied over the pothole:

This means that the road was built in September 2007, cracks started to developer in 2010, three years after, and it got bad enough to warrant patches in August 2012, at just under 5 years old.

And less than two years later, in May 2014, it was marked for repair yet again:

And a circular patch applied between May and June 2014:

This had disintegrated by the next time I went by in May 2015.

Another attempt had been made at patching it by the time I went by in July 2015:

But a May 2016 Street View capture shows that it is gone yet again:

Curiously, the other circular manhole cover just on the other side of the centreline seems to be doing just fine. It would presumably be for a different service and therefore might have a different configuration under the surface that happens to hold it up better. I wonder what those configurations are, and what makes this one so prone to needing repair. When you look around the intersection in Google Street View, you can see the asphalt around different covers is in different states of repair.

For a less banal history of the intersection of Bank and Slater Streets, see this very thorough retrospective on Urbsite.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

3D Thursday: Hangar Doors Open Ottawa @avspacemuseum

This coming weekend, June 6 and 7, 2015, is Doors Open Ottawa, an annual festival where the public gets the chance to look behind usually-closed doors—for free! There are 22 new buildings this year, including the Canadian Nurses' Association headquarters, CNA House, at 50 the Driveway in Centretown.

Outside Centretown, but also new this year, is the Canada Aviation and Space Museum's Reserve Hangar, where they store all the airplanes and stuff that doesn't fit on the museum floor. Put on your 3D glasses and turn up your screen brightness and check out these aircraft photos!

Source photos for the 3D image: Left, Right

The above photo is from inside the museum itself, which isn't part of the free tour (but it's a great photo, isn't it?). All the other photos in this post are from a tour I had the fortune to attend a couple of months ago.

In the photo below, immediately behind the tour group is a wooden full-scale model of a forward fuselage for Bombardier's CSeries aircraft.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ash to ashes...

The Emerald Ash Borer beetle is continuing its destruction of a significant portion of Ottawa's urban canopy, and Centretown isn't escaping it either.

On Percy Street, at the CCOC's housing development at the former Percy Street School, a row of ash trees are marked for removal. Someone has added cloth signs to the tree trunks, including this one that says "That ash is boring me to death!"

From the ground, these mature Ash trees don't look too bad. Lots of leaves left...

But from across the street it's clear that the trees' days are numbered.

The City has some useful information about the EAB on its website at

Thursday, May 22, 2014

3D Thursday: Lewis blossoms

Spring is finally here, and with it the trees are blossoming. Across from Minto Park* on Lewis Street, this tree makes for quite the 3D experience:

Source photos for the 3D image: Left, Right

Also within the Golden Triangle, a couple blocks east on Lewis, at MacDonald, is another blooming bush whose lotus-like flowers look like they're floating in the air when you look at them with 3D glasses on:

Source photos for the 3D image: Left, Right

Let's hope the nice weather lasts!

*On the topic of Minto Park, the CCCA is hosting its annual BBQ, plant sale, and e-waste drop-off at the annual Minto Park Sale, on Saturday, June 14, 2014. These fundraisers will be important for the CCCA as we will need funds for expert assistance as we prepare for our OMB appeal of the Centretown Community Design Plan this fall. If you'd like to volunteer for the CCCA's Minto Park Sale activities or for the OMB appeal effort, please contact the CCCA (

[Tune in on Thursdays at noon for a new 3D image. View the 3D label for other posts with 3D images. 3D FAQ]

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tulips & tower cranes sprouting up

In the first weekend of May, the tower crane for Broccolini's hotel/condo at 199 Slater went up. This is right across the street from the BMO building at 280 Laurier, at the Slater Street "Bank" Transitway station. The BMO building had some nice flowers by its windows to go along with the view.

[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Peds on Weds: Condo access fail

Suppose you're going to spend $18.5 million on a 12-storey (later 16-storey) condo building. You might build it with exclusively one-bedroom apartments that cater to young, single individuals. Such apartments aren't big enough to raise children, so you wouldn't need to worry about your residents getting in with a stroller. And your target market is decades away from using a wheelchair.

So despite legislation that gradually encourages more and more compliance to provide equal access to people with disabilities, you install a step at the front door:

If a resident loses a limb or is paid a visit by a wheelchair-using relative, there's a second-class entrance at the side of the building. When they're dropped off at the front of the building (as is customary), someone who is unable to walk up a step would of course have no difficulty walking 60 feet or so out of their way on a snowy sidewalk:

To add insult to (hopefully no) injury, the entrance was initially built with a direct ramp from the sidewalk. The step was added after the fact:

According to the Condo project website, a new development in "contemporary Canadian cities" has the following requirements: "a sharp and creative Development Team with a solid track record of success ... design innovation, marketing savvy, systematic project management, financial prowess and political acumen." (I won't go into the "partnership with...neighbours" bit where the first the community association heard of this development was the day before it went to the Committee of Adjustment)

But as the CCCA's Seniors Committee regularly writes in their column in the Centretown Buzz, our ageing population means that we also need to ensure that new buildings are built with accessibility and visitability in mind. These qualities are essential in ensuring that ageing individuals can continue to live in their homes, ensuring a healthy diversity of the community.

There's only so much you can do for older buildings that were constructed before universal accessibility was a consideration, but for new buildings there's no excuse a person with a mobility restriction can't enter the building with as much dignity as an able-bodied person from the first time they visit.

[Tune in on Wednesdays at noon for a new pedestrian-themed blog post. View the Pedestrians label for previous Peds on Weds posts]

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Jane's Walk Ottawa 2014 this weekend

This weekend (May 3-4, 2014) is the annual Jane's Walk Ottawa series of free urbanist walking tours, and as with last year, I'm publishing a list of walks in Somerset Ward.

I mentioned two of the walks I went on last year in my blog posts The Lonely Elm (Dennis van Staalduinen's walk on Wellington Street, who this year is giving a walk in Champlain Park) and The stones don't fall far from the hill (Quentin Gall's talk on Ottawa's Building and Monument Stones), both of which seem to have been one-offs.

Here's the rundown of Jane's Walks in Centretown for this year:

Monday, April 28, 2014

Onramp houses on O'Connor

Christopher Ryan had a timely post on Ottawa Start about Connor Court, describing one of the low-rise apartment buildings built in the first half of the 20th Century. As he mentions, O'Connor Street is little more than an onramp to the 417 freeway all the way from the office buildings at the north end through the apartment/commercial district through Centretown.

South of a certain point, O'Connor is mostly mid-rise residential or low-rise commercial, there are a couple of exceptions. I noticed this house for the first time just earlier this month. It's 231 O'Connor, between Cooper and Somerset on the east side:

231 O'Connor is on the 1958 aerials on GeoOttawa, but it isn't on the 1902 (1912 revision) fire insurance maps (unsurprisingly, given the architecture). (Er, on closer look, it appears to also be commercial)

The same day I noticed the house above for the first time, I also took an appreciation for these two houses at numbers 312 and 314, on the west side of O'Connor just north of Frank Street: