Thursday, May 16, 2013

Roads To Nowhere

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but one way I find to fritter away many a long hour or day is by designing road maps. You might ask why, especially now that Google has turned itself into the Great Cyber Cartographer. One reason is that not even Google gets things right. Another is that local authorities on Mallorca also don't get things right. Google meets Mallorcan all-round efficiency meets map-making, and the result is roads and streets that don't exist, that don't actually go where it is suggested that they do or, and this is the best of the lot, where the street names have been altered for no obvious reason.

Changing the names of streets is not so uncommon on Mallorca. It has been something driven by political flavour of the month, for example a Catalan rather than a Castellano name or vice versa being demanded or the law of historic memory requiring the banishment of all association with Franco from the streets of Spain. This type of change is perhaps understandable. What isn't is where a street that was previously known by one name adopts a different name and gives its original name to another street that is a mere couple of streets away. Trust me, this has happened.

Then there are streets or roads which have never become streets or roads. Perhaps they will at some point in the future. They exist in theory or even vaguely in practice. There is one example, in Puerto Alcúdia, where the street even has a street sign, even if there is no street as such. Another source of confusion are roads or streets which, once upon a time, were whole streets or roads before they were built on top of and so became non-roads. Again, Puerto Alcúdia has a couple of good examples. The Sea Club Apartments sit on two such non-roads and have done for years. Yet, take a look at many a map, and the impression is given that they are whole roads.

There is something eery about roads that were once roads or roads that don't really exist and even roads that most certainly do exist but which are unused or are unfinished. A great stretch of main-road tarmac disappearing into the horizon with road signs announcing the road number or junction is especially eery if it shows no sign of vehicular life. It has a feeling of the apocalypse and abandonment.

And abandoned is what has happened to some main roads and motorways in Spain. In Mallorca, we moan about the abandonment of the work on the Manacor to Artà railway, but we would moan even more had the track been laid but had not been put to any use. On the mainland, there are roads that have been laid. They have been marked. They have had signs put up. But no one uses them.

A prime example is the MP203. It was intended to relieve congestion on the existing route from Barcelona to Alcalá de Henares and Madrid. It is now six years since work ceased. We are used to construction being paralysed in Mallorca; the Palacio de Congresos is one example. But work on the MP203 didn't stop because public money ran out - it was a private venture from the outset, as it was due to be a toll road - and it didn't stop for environmental reasons or because the constructor went bust. It stopped because there were obstacles in the way, such as the track for the high-speed railway. About three-quarters of the road was built, but it ends not by connecting to another road but by petering out into sand.

Another road, the A14, has actually been finished, but no one uses it. Built at a cost of 36 million euros, the reason why no one uses it is because it takes too long to get to it or from it. The road, as one blogger has put it, doesn't serve anything or anyone. So why was it built and why was land expropriated? Just so it can be used as an illegal race track, which it is?

There are other examples of so-called phantom main roads. Lack of money is certainly a reason why some are unfinished or unused, but the A14 is probably not the only road that was unnecessary. Perhaps, therefore, an idea presents itself for a different type of map to be created; one that shows all the roads and streets which are unused, unfinished, don't exist or which go nowhere.

Any comments to please.

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