Last Thursday the City of Edmonton held an open house to discuss and gather feedback on two projects that will have a big impact on our river valley. The Walterdale Bridge, which has served Edmonton for nearly 100 years, is reaching the end of its usable life and needs to be replaced. The bridge connects the south side to Rossdale, the western part of which has been “rediscovered” and for which a new urban design plan has been created.
Held at the TransAlta Arts Barns, I thought the open house was fairly well-attended. I stayed for the first half, and by the time I left, around 120 people had signed in. Unfortunately the Walterdale Bridge presentation went long, so I didn’t learn much about West Rossdale other than what was shared on the information display boards. You can learn more about the West Rossdale Urban Design Plan here.
The Walterdale Bridge Strategic Planning Concept Study of 2008 concluded that the bridge is now too old to be rehabilitated, and must be replaced. These images of the current Walterdale Bridge come from Bing Maps:
The concept design for the replacement bridge calls for a “functional signature bridge”. Key design considerations include:
- Access/traffic accommodation from 82 Avenue to 97 Avenue.
- Grades at south approach.
- Detours and closure impacts, utility staging.
- Aesthetics – signature bridge.
- Traditional Burial Grounds and Fort Edmonton Cemetery Commemoration Site, historical resources.
- North Saskatchewan River Valley plans.
- Environmental policies and procedures.
- Integration with West Rossdale Urban Design Plan, EPCOR Rossdale repurposing,
EXPO 2017 bid, and other area plans.
- Pedestrian and cyclist accommodation.
To date, the City has conducted meetings/interviews with 14 key stakeholder groups, including twice with Aboriginal Elders with a pipe ceremony. As you might expect, a wide range of issues have been raised in those stakeholder meetings, but this comment nicely sums it up:
The challenge for this project is to achieve a balance between providing improved access for private vehicles to downtown Edmonton and protecting/preserving the character, safety and integrity of the communities that the roadways approaching the bridge replacement will be impacting.
There were four options presented at the open house, though they weren’t mutually exclusive (PDF, 3.9 MB). Attendees were encouraged to leave feedback using sticky notes, and if they liked the south side of one option but the north side of another, the City representatives wanted to hear that. There are four bridge types being considered: girder, arch, extradosed, and cable-stayed (PDF, 320 KB).
All four alignment options get rid of the hairpin at Saskatchewan Drive and Queen Elizabeth Park Road. The first three options shift the bridge to the east slightly, whereas option four would see the replacement built significantly further east than the current bridge. Of the four options, the first seems to have the smallest impact.
I’m encouraged by the lip service paid to pedestrians and cyclists during the open house, and I hope that translates into tangible benefits for those two important types of travelers once the replacement is built. It was also encouraging to hear that 1% of the total cost of the bridge will be allocated to public art.
In the presentation, a “signature” bridge was described as one that Edmontonians feel proud of. While that’s a fair definition, I really wonder why we’d build something we’re not proud of. It seems to me that what is meant by “signature” is something different, perhaps something more along the lines of the new Art Gallery of Alberta. I think a signature bridge is one that gets Edmontonians and others talking about it.
The next steps for the Walterdale Bridge project are as follows:
- An interim plan, with three options, will go to the Transportation & Public Works Committee in January 2011.
- Additional public information sessions will take place in February/March 2011.
- A final recommendation will go to City Council in April 2011.
Even without EXPO 2017, we need to replace the Walterdale Bridge, so I’m not sure what impact, if any, that loss will have on the project. The Walterdale Bridge is an important, busy bridge here in Edmonton. If you have feedback on how the replacement bridge should look or function, let the team know.