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Canal Footbridge Begins Next Year

Next year – after decades of discussions, lobbying and studying – the Clegg-Fifth Canal footbridge will begin to take shape with the support of municipal, provincial and federal governments. At long last, cycling and walking between midtown communities will become safer and easier. According to a release from Councillor David Chernushenko’s office, “Construction of the bridge could begin as early as late fall 2017, after the Canal has been drained, should funding from other levels of government become available.” The election of the federal Liberals and Catherine McKenna, who included the footbridge in her platform, coupled with provincial MPP Yasir Naqvi’s ongoing support of the bridge should ensure that federal and provincial funding will be added to the city’s resources to finance what has been estimated as a $17 – 20 million project.

The initiative received a critical boost because of Ms McKenna’s support and the potential availability of federal infrastructure funding. Shortly after her election Ms McKenna, now Minister of Environment and Climate Change, met with Mayor Jim Watson and highlighted that the footbridge was one of her local priorities.

The proposed footbridge is viewed by some as simply a connection between the Glebe and Old Ottawa East but it will provide a critical linkage to the routes many Ottawa pedestrians and cyclists use: McIlraith/Smyth Bridge, Echo Drive, the Rideau Canal pathways, the new Main Street cycle tracks and the Rideau River Nature Trail and Western Pathway.

With the completion of the footbridge an estimated 400 students a day will have a safer and quicker route across the Canal to get to school.
One of the fundamental justifications for the footbridge was to provide a safe alternative to the Pretoria and Bank Street bridges, both of which are substandard in terms of safe cycling usage. And because of unsafe cycling on the bridges’ roadways some cyclists endanger pedestrians by riding on the bridges’ sidewalks.

In response to comments on the revised design presented at a public open house in February, several modifications have been made, including expanding the bridge’s “deck” width from four to five metres, so it will be the same as the Adàwe footbridge across the Rideau River at Somerset – Donald. Residents strongly opposed the proposed four-metre width for safety and aesthetic reasons. Adàwe’s five-metre width allows users to stop and enjoy the views and it provides greater separation of cyclists and pedestrians. Other improvements include: smoothing the slopes on the west side ramp; additional measures to beautify and restore the Lily Pond on the Glebe side; a larger rest and viewing area at the northern end of the west ramp; and preserving the large oak tree and enhancing the public space with a plaza at the east landing at Clegg Street.

Ian Grabina of the councillor’s office reports that the bridge’s preliminary design drawings have been completed and the detailed design work has begun. In addition, the archaeological testing on both sides of the Canal was recently completed. National Capital Commission staff have recommended that the City presents the design enhancements to the NCC’s Advisory Committee on Planning, Design and Realty (ACPDR) on August 18, 2016. The presentation will be focused on the integration of the western approach and the Lily Pond, increased width to five metres, and detailed design features. This is to provide feedback to the committee on comments received during the previous presentation.

More than 30 years ago OOE residents lobbied for the relocation of the temporary Pretoria footbridge to the Fifth-Clegg area but it was deemed too expensive by the regional government. And before the skateway was created a footbridge was annually constructed on top of the ice between Herridge and Third Avenue. Once a row boat ferry operated between Fifth and Clegg. And a hundred years ago three road bridges were proposed in the stretch of the Canal between Bank Street and the Pretoria Bridge.

All of this history is about to be superseded by a new footbridge that will link communities, remove a barrier and make life safer, healthier and easier for many Ottawans.