Bridge over the River North Saskatchewan
The Walterdale Bridge replacement project was a shitshow. Over budget, Korean steel delivered a year late, and contractor squabbles somewhat tarnished the project. When it opened, there were more than a few “finally”‘s and snide, side-of-mouth opinions being broadcast by Edmontonians. And for good measure, of course. It’s a major artery connecting south Edmonton with downtown and north Edmonton, and it came right in the middle of a period of time where City administration was taking a beating for projects under their management. Blatchford stalled, the Metro LRT Line was a mess, and Edmonton’s government needed a win amidst citizen uproar. The Walterdale Bridge was just another failure at a time when the City needed a win.
The bridge project is done now. And boy howdy, is it spectacular.
I think it’s important to take a moment here to acknowledge that the bridge construction disturbed traditional Papaschase burial grounds – lands that were also illegally taken from the Papaschase by the Federal government in the late 19th Century. Supposedly, the Papaschase and the City/Epcor resolved their issues, and the City now has constructed a memorial honoring the lands adjacent to the bridge. However, I think it is important to remember the history of the lands.
A work of art
The Walterdale Bridge really is spectacular. Although not phallic shaped, you can just tell based on the sheer scale and grandiose stature that the bridge contributed to some tight pants at design and construction phases.
I mean, look at that thing. Driving on the Walterdale Bridge is actually pretty cool and has great views of downtown. Pedestrian walkways flank either side. And these walkways are wide. Like, noticeably wide. Comfortably wide. Not your standard 3m shared use path, it’s like twice that width. And it makes perfect sense. Walk with me some more.
The pedestrian experience
There’s built-in seating (or stools, for short/young people) in the guardrail. That’s a really nice touch. If you were to sit in the seating, you’d be facing east towards this view:
In summertime, that’s a pretty nice view. That’s a not a bad look at a nice part of the river valley, especially when it’s in full bloom.
Here’s the view looking west:
This is a view of Edmonton’s Iconic High Level Bridge. Not sure if the Capital Letter treatment was necessary there, but I go with what feels right. That bridge is lit up every night with colours representing a different organization. The night of this post, for example, it was lit up in all yellow for Worldwide EndoMarch Alberta. The City takes applications from non-profit and community organizations to have the bridge lit up a certain colour. The goal is that over the course of 365 days, the different lights would tell Edmonton’s story.
That’s some touching shit, and a great idea. Especially during the winter when it’s dark for what feels like 20 hours per day; that illuminated bridge makes winter a little cheerier. The white of winter makes colours more vibrant and visible. I’d encourage anyone that doesn’t know about it to read up on it.
On top of that, the Walterdale Bridge is perfectly located to see fireworks during special events.
A bridge as a gathering space?
With seating in the guardrail combined with an extra-wide pedestrian path, the bridge serves as an informal gathering place for special occasions. The width of that walkway easily accommodates a large number of people without impeding through movements for cyclists and pedestrians. It’s that multi-functionality that really tickles me.
But there’s only one problem….and I’m nitpicking here…the seating was only installed on the east side of the bridge. Here’s the west side:
Oh god that bugs me. Why put the seating facing east when the west side is where all the action happens?
The bridge still has spectacular views of downtown, though:
The Walterdale Bridge was a day late and a buck too much, but is an absolutely fantastic addition to Edmonton. It simultaneously connects pedestrian networks on either side of the river and acts as an informal gathering space. Having seating on only one side makes my eye twitch a little, but overall I consider this a success.
Well done, Edmonton.