Friday, May 19, 2006

Trans-Canada Highway - a Forced Analogy

Infrastructure Canada has a history of the Trans-Canada Highway that seems to parallel the current identity world.

The Trans-Canada Highway joins all ten provinces - stretching from the Pacific to the Atlantic, it's 7,821 kilometres long. When the project was begun in 1949, the fundamental question was 'Where should the road go?'
In the past the provinces had decided the route their highways would take. Unfortunately, these provincially planned routes did not usually link up with one another at provincial borders.
Not particularly interoperable
If the Trans-Canada Highway was going to stretch from one end of the country to the other, it needed to be organized to ensure that it connected at provincial boundaries. However, since highways are the responsibility of the provinces in Canada the federal government could not simply tell the provinces where to build their roads.
No overarching authority
Agreeing on a point of connection between each of the provinces was further complicated by each province’s desire to connect their major cities to the Highway. The federal government tried to get the provinces to design the “shortest practicable east-west route”, but this was sometimes impractical.
Different requirements
Ultimately the Trans-Canada Highway changed from a single roadway into a road network to accommodate the needs of the provinces and their major cities.
A compromise solution

You can drive from one side of the country to the other - but the trip will take you over a wide range of jurisdictions, road surfaces, and terrain. The 'highway' is not a single stretch of tarmac, it's the system defined by agreements between consituents, the knitting together of multiple component highways of different capabilities (4-lane freeways vs 2-lane rural routes) and the common experience of the green markers to provide a reassuring sense of consistency.

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