[ezcol_1half]By John Dance
Cost-saving design changes to the proposed Fifth-Clegg footbridge, coupled with Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna’s efforts to secure federal funding for the project, may accelerate the construction of the long-proposed connection over the two-kilometre stretch of the Rideau Canal between the Pretoria and Bank Street bridges.
Councillor David Chernushenko hosted an open house in early February at the Glebe Community Centre so residents could learn of the footbridge’s simplified design and the possibility of an earlier start to the project.
The new design is now a “straight-across” span with a long ramp on the Glebe side. The design sees the bridge spanning both the canal and Colonel By Drive and, on the west side, going over the middle section of the lily pond north of the Canal Ritz restaurant. The redesigned bridge will no longer have a wide, lengthy and curved mid-span viewing area, a change lamented by some of the attendees. It will have a smaller viewing area.
An environmental assessment of the footbridge three years ago resulted in a recommended design that was approved by the City, the National Capital Commission and the province. The footbridge was later included in the City’s transportation master plan with a scheduled construction start date sometime during the 2020 – 2025 period.
But starting construction as early as 2018 may be possible because of new Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna’s commitment to recommend that the new federal “green infrastructure” program support the footbridge and because of Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi’s continuing endorsement of the project. Ms. McKenna endorsed construction of the bridge during the election campaign and, since being elected, has discussed advancing the project with Mayor Jim Watson and Councillor Chernushenko.
The footbridge will provide Glebe residents with a safer and more pleasant alternative route for cycling and walking to the east and will allow more people to bike and walk to Lansdowne Park. The bridge will also be the missing link for an east-west midtown active transportation corridor, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to readily get across town without taking a busy downtown route or the much more southerly Hunt Club corridor.
[/ezcol_1half] [ezcol_1half_end]“We’re well past the point of asking the question, Will this project be built?” Councillor Chernushenko said. “There is good reason to believe that other levels of government will support the project.”
The proposed changes result from “value-engineering” of the original curved structure and, according to senior project manager Craig Anderson, will result in “significant savings;” however, no specific savings were cited at the open house. Councillor Chernushenko also spoke of the desire to simplify the design to avoid the increased cost and complications that plagued the Airport Parkway footbridge.
While most of the approximately 200 attendees at the open house welcomed news of a possible earlier construction start, suggestions for improvements were made, particularly by some Glebe residents who were concerned about the new ramp parallel to Queen Elizabeth Driveway, including Fourth Avenue resident Lynn Armstrong.
One suggestion was that the Glebe-side ramp not be supported by a large earth berm but rather be structural and supported by piers, as was the case in the previous design, so that views from Queen Elizabeth Driveway and residences to the west won’t be obstructed.
Details of the new design are available at http://bit.ly/1oMjoRr. The City welcomes comments and staff members are particularly interested in suggestions for ensuring safe cyclist-pedestrian travel on the bridge.
John Dance is an Old Ottawa East resident and long-time supporter of the proposed footbridge.