Digging to China for the cable

By John Owen | Oct 20, 2011

It was one of the great disappointments of my early childhood.   I was digging industriously in my backyard when my big sister decided I needed extra inspiration.

" If you dig far enough, you'll come out in China," she revealed.

Soon the sand was flying.  I dug and dug and dug some more when suddenly my small shovel hit what seemed to be a wooden panel. Was this the back door to China?   Nope.  I had reached the bottom of my sand box.

True story, although my sister will probably still deny it.

But I often recall the incident when I take a morning walk (or drive) down Dayton Avenue.   More often than not, I have to evade four trucks, assorted workers and a few crossing guards.  On and off for at least three years, city crews have been digging up the street, then refilling it, as if they had suddenly come to the bottom of their sand box.  

Perplexed, one recent morning we encountered a man wearing a hard hat, holding a clip board and staring down at a worker with a jack hammer. We assumed he was the foreman and we asked what they were doing.

"We're trying to locate the fiber optic cable," he responded. Had he been talking with my big sister?  It seems to me that using a jack hammer to find a hidden cable was akin to collecting butterflies, with a 12 gauge shotgun.

Quick question:  When the Empire State Building was constructed it became the tallest building in the country, with 102 stories. Construction began on March 17, 1930.  Ribbon cutting ceremonies marking the completion of the project took place on May 1, 1931.

How could such an enormous task be completed in 14 months? Well, labor was plentiful  and cheap because of the economic downturn.  We are in the midst of another economic downturn and a lot of workers are looking for jobs. And some of them have been put to work digging holes and then filling them up again.

Well, maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  

The new round of construction that began on Sept. 19  involves the replacement of 7,300 feet of existing water main with new  4-inch, 6-inch, 8-inch and 12-inch diameter ductile iron water main and appurtenances including fire hydrants, isolation valves, tie-in connections and water services. 

In other words we should have easy access to the waterfront  along Dayton Avenue by the Fourth of July.  In the Year of the Chinese Dump Truck.

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