By Myron Belej
Saving the Walterdale Bridge is a winning idea for several reasons. It’s a part of our history, it’s an interesting piece of architecture, and as a refurbished bridge geared at walkers and bikers, it can also generate income.
The cost just to take it apart and throw it in the garbage is $2.5 million. The cost of turning it into a bridge for walkers and bikers – a new destination and tourist attraction right in the middle of the river valley, minutes from downtown – is an extra $5.5 million.
That’s a steal compared to the cost of other new destinations like $80-million art galleries or recreation centres. New pedestrian bridges proposed elsewhere in the city have been coming in at $20- to $40-million.
The maintenance cost on a refurbished (and repainted!) Walterdale is estimated at $20,000 per month, less than a quarter per citizen per year. Turning that into more meaningful numbers, the maintenance of the bridge might be completely paid for with 500 people a day making a purchase there: a coffee, a muffin, a craft item, a bike rental.
Winnipeg has a restaurant on its pedestrian bridge, built in 2003. Even in the middle of the afternoon on a rainy day, when I was there, it was a busy place.
Back to Edmonton. A captive audience of nearly 1,000 people live in Rossdale, right beside the bridge, with no nearby eateries since Cliff Clavin’s closed.
Over 100,000 people attend the Folk Festival each day it runs. Half a million people a year visit the Shaw Conference Centre, and the river valley currently receives upwards of 10 million user visits yearly, a large portion of which will be near downtown.
The Walterdale Bridge would make a nice halfway point for citizens and tourists walking between Whyte Avenue and downtown, and back again.
The Walterdale’s width in the middle section alone is considerably wider that what is planned for people on each side of the new bridge, minus the noise, pollution, wind effects, and kicked up slush caused by cars.
More space means more possibilities for events, parties and festivals. Imagine how much money an event like The Taste of Edmonton could generate along the Walterdale’s 700-foot span.
Infrastructure that pays for itself, preserves architectural history, and promotes walkability and sustainability at the same time? In an era of tightening budgets, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Myron Belej is a creative urban planner with a passion for fixing cities and improving communities. His work has been published and featured nationally and internationally. An active mentor and coach, Myron has also been recognized for his thought-provoking presentations at several conferences and Pecha Kucha Nights. Read more by Myron at www.cityplanner.ca.
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