by John Dance
With Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi’s recent announcement of $5 million of provincial funding for the canal footbridge at Fifth Avenue, all necessary funding and approvals are in place.
“The Glebe Community Association (GCA) is thrilled that the Fifth – Clegg footbridge will become a reality with construction starting this fall – three years ahead of schedule,” says vice president Anthony Carricato.
After a decade of community advocacy, the specific location of the bridge has been chosen, the design is complete, the construction contract has been awarded and all sources for the required $21 million have been found. Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna committed $10.5 million of federal funding for the project last summer. The bridge construction can proceed now that the new provincial commitment and the $5.5 million of city funding that Councillor David Chernushenko secured are in place.
Long recognized as a key link for the city’s active transportation network, the footbridge’s progress was stalled because of a price tag about double that of other city footbridges such as the Adawé footbridge over the Rideau River at Somerset – Donald and the footbridge over the Queensway by the train station. The extra costs for the Fifth – Clegg footbridge result from needing the extra height and related ramps to allow unobstructed boat traffic, the restricted “real estate” available to land the ramps and the need to ensure the heritage elements of the Rideau Canal – particularly the lily pond along Queen Elizabeth Drive – were respected.
“The GCA worked tirelessly over the last decade with other community associations in the urban core to advocate for this footbridge and this collaboration is a great example of how we can all contribute to vital improvements in our neighbourhood. Thanks, MP Catherine McKenna, MPP Yasir Naqvi and Councillor Chernushenko for your efforts to secure the necessary funding,” Carricato commented.
Yasir Naqvi, in the company of Catherine McKenna, Jim Watson and David Chernushenko, made the funding announcement to the cheers of footbridge advocates who have long lobbied for what they affectionately call the “Midtown” bridge.
“Building a bridge to connect our communities will improve the quality of life for our neighbours by encouraging environmentally friendly transportation, improving the accessibility of our city, and ultimately connect people and build stronger communities,” wrote Naqvi eight years ago. Bridge advocates at Naqvi’s announcement noted the footbridge will promote healthy transportation and will be much safer than the existing Bank and Pretoria bridges.
A name and the selection of its public art are yet to be decided.
“In terms of the bridge’s naming, I think it would be safe to say that there will be a large collaborative, consultative process with all partner organizations,” says Ian Grabina, advisor to Councillor Chernushenko. The city has labelled the bridge bureaucratically as the Rideau Canal Crossing (Fifth – Clegg); however, others have used such names as Midtown, GOES (acronym of Glebe, Ottawa East and South) and Lansdowne. Another suggestion is that it be the Dewar Bridge in honour of former mayor Marion Dewar.
The city will initiate a public art competition this fall for the footbridge artwork. “The surrounding community will have an opportunity to give comments on the shortlisted proposals, which the peer assessment committee will take into consideration during their discussions,” says Grabina.
Construction is expected to be complete in 2019, being somewhat constrained by the need to ensure the canal and skateway can maintain regular operations.
John Dance is an Old Ottawa East resident and a long-time advocate of a new Canal footbridge who has kept Glebe Report readers up-to-date on its progress.