'Careful what you wish for:' Summer closure to refurbish aging pedestrian bridge over Wayne Gretzky Drive surprises some locals

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Residents of two central Edmonton neighbourhoods are puzzled by the upcoming summer closure of a popular pedestrian bridge over Wayne Gretzky Drive.

The bridge connecting Terrace Heights and Forest Heights, built in 1968, is slated to be closed starting early summer for rehabilitation work focused on repainting the bridge and replacing the pedestrian rails.

Nearby resident Charlie Richmond was surprised to see a sign next to the green bridge on his daily walk across to Forest Heights noting the bridge will be closed between April and October. Most curious for Richmond is the city’s link to the rehabilitation of Ada Boulevard Bridge over Wayne Gretzky Drive, more than two kilometres away on the other side of the river.

Both projects will be happening at the same time and require full bridge closures. Details about both bridges are under an Ada Boulevard page on the city’s website, which Richmond said he had no knowledge of. Notices were only sent out to residents in the area after concerns about the closure were brought to ward councillor Ben Henderson, Richmond said.

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“A lot of people didn’t know where Ada Boulevard is. There’s no rational connection between the two,” Richmond said. “Can you imagine closing down a pedestrian bridge for half a year? If they tried to do that for an auto bridge, they’d be in real trouble.”

Following concerns raised by community residents about the planned lengthy closure, the city said an alternative construction schedule for the pedestrian bridge has been created to reduce the timeline. The bridge will now only close in the early summer and is expected to reopen by the end of summer and won’t hinge on reopening of the Ada Boulevard bridge. Signs at the pedestrian bridge will be updated to reflect the closure timelines.

In a statement to Postmedia, city spokeswoman Kristi Bland said the two bridges are the same type and age and as a result have been bundled together to minimize complexities, reduce costs and shorten construction timelines. The warmer weather is necessary for the painting and road work, Bland said of the summer construction timeline.

“We understand there are various impacts this summer as we work to improve neighbourhood connections and we thank residents for their patience during this construction season,” Bland said in the statement.

Richmond said the closure of the pedestrian bridge throughout the warmer months will impact at least one hundred pedestrians daily. It is used to connect to two schools, a nursing home and a bus route to Downtown. Now residents will need to reroute their trip about 650 metres to cross Wayne Gretzky Drive at the busy 101 Avenue intersection three blocks south.

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Coun. Henderson said he too was surprised by the link to the Ada Boulevard project, but he is confident the city will reopen the pedestrian bridge as soon as it’s ready to go.

“I think they’re going to do it as fast as they can but I think it’s probably a bigger project than we think,” Henderson said. “I’ve been fielding complaints for a number of years about the fact that the bridge was looking pretty shoddy and needed work so it’s one of those be careful what you wish for things.”

Forest/Terrace Heights Community League vice-president Kathleen Wolff said, in a statement to Postmedia, the bridge is a well-used connector between the two neighbourhoods and will be missed during the warmer months, but the league is “pleased that upgrades are being done.”

The two bridge rehabilitation projects are under the same capital profile with a budget of $5.2 million.

duscook@postmedia.com

twitter.com/dustin_cook3

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