When the Ottawa Humane Society left Champagne Avenue there was some sort of contractual agreement they had to offer the land to the city. For parkland. Nothing said the city had to buy it. So they didn’t. And as a taxpayer, it is sort of pleasing to see the 20 storey student residence there, and its bigger twin tower (28 floors?) going up beside it. They will pay millions in property taxes every year, and didn’t require one new inch of road or watermain. Pure profit. Intensification at work.
You cannot economically build a residential tower over a rail line in Ottawa as the engineering costs exceed the value of the “free” land (or land rights). But back in the day I suggested the city take some of that tax revenue stream from the dog shelter development and put it toward covering a block of the Trillium Line cut to make park land. Of course, city staff promptly escalated the design to make it too expensive and the idea was dismissed. Dumb taxpayers and their wishful thinking, and all that.
So whilst cycling on the east side of the downtown (getting out of my silo, so as to speak) I noticed this wonderful asset hidden in the overgrowth:
It’s a bridge. Over the Rideau River. To Porter Island. With the requisite chain link fence closing it off. Other than the wooden decking, it is apparently in excellent structural condition. After all, it was made about 1894 and things back then were made to last (compare this bridge, and the Prince of Wales, to the cut-short life of those 1980’s overpasses that were part of the Transitway and weren’t sound enough to be used for the LRT, or the Hogs Back Bridge dead after only a half life, or the dying Queensway bridges…).
So why not slap down a new deck and open it up to the public? Great views of the river. Useful functional connection to Porters Island. Great place to sit on a bench and fish or smoke pot.
Ah, not so fast. First, we’d have to give a huge contract to consulting engineers to determine if it is fully up to date safe, you know, like the transitway and carp river and airport parkway bridges. And with the Prince of Wales Bridge estimate for structural repairs and putting to use now edging toward $800,000,000 (yes, you read that right, but I am only repeating rumours here, so who really knows…) one can expect a dilly of bill.
And who would pay? In my mind, it is a recreational bridge, so the parks dept, even though it isn’t a square grassed area with a fence around it and an adjacent parking lot. But perhaps it could stay a transportation bridge, since we are sort of, gradually, kinda getting used to ped bridges (Corktown, Adawe, Hickory) being popular and – gasp – genuinely useful. Lets throw in some heritage dollars too, since it is a heritage structure.
The bridge is a Pratt-Truss pin-connected bridge and is probably unique in the city, although the Alexandra Interprovincial bridge is of a somewhat similar design. It was likely designed by City Engineer Robert Surtees, who designed the more elaborate Minto Bridges, and built by Dominion Bridge, who established a manufacturing facility in Vanier.
The only possibility of a bridge like this being converted into a modern and ongoing use is if the public demand it. And the politicians then jump out in front of the parade to lead it. If the city doesn’t want to save or use it, it will throw up endless roadblocks and escalating costs til everyone gives up.
It’s one of those instances where logical arguments don’t work so well as an emotional appeal. I recall the original proposal for a downtown > west bike route (https://www.westsideaction.ca/bikewest-motion-passes-transit-committee ) seemed doomed until it caught the imagination of some politicians, including the one who demanded, aggrieved, where was “Bike-east”? Without overselling the importance, the proposal simply hit the right place at the right time, caught a favorable wind, etc. If it hadn’t been that proposal, something else would have come along.
By the way, 2018 is municipal election year, and T2 is having a hard time shovelling infrastructure money out the door.
Now where is that politician that needs a parade?