Tag Archives: Traffic Bridge

A couple of random late night thoughts on Saskatoon

While on the Prairie Lily cruise I over heard a couple of visiting business travellers who were stunned that Saskatoon would spend some much money on rehabilitating the University Bridge and then not get the graffiti that is all over the underneath of it at the same time.  Also they were stunned at what looks to be a smaller sign warning about the weir placed on a larger sign.  As one of them said, “It looks so bush league”.  I have to agree on them.

Then Wendy and I listened to the shock over the fact that the Traffic Bridge had just fallen apart.  “Who let’s a bridge fall apart?” as they listed off the cities they have lived in and tried to recollect a failed bridge in Canada outside of Montreal.  As someone else said, “Don’t cities just maintain them?”.

I realized that we have become so accustomed to such bad management in the City of Saskatoon that we think it is somewhat normal.  Part of me would wonder where we would be through the boom with a city council that could manage or lead together.

I also couldn’t help but notice that right across from the new mansion on Saskatchewan Crescent East was a tent for a homeless women on the westside of the river.  It looked like it had been there for a while.  Quite the contrasting views and a depressing visual reminder that Saskatoon’s homeless numbers keep growing and few care.

Column: City must go beyond status quo

My column in today’s The StarPhoenix

I would love to shut the door on 2013 and move on, but there are always loose threads as you move into a new year.

Some things just never get dealt with and can linger for years, such as replacing our maligned Traffic Bridge that’s been sitting idle since 2010, slowly falling apart. Actually, it has been falling apart for longer than that, but we ran out of cheap repair options in 2010 and had to close it. The bridge’s collapse was said to be imminent.

It didn’t collapse as predicted, and the decision was taken in 2012 to remove an eastern span, which would have been a far more useful tourist draw if Evel Knievel were still around. Eventually city council tried to pressure the provincial government into paying for both a replacement Traffic Bridge and the north commuter bridge.

The province looked at the cost of two bridges and its shrinking bank account, and declined. The result is that we enter 2014 in the same position as we were in back in 2010, dreaming of bridges that no one else cares about.

Even as a public we have stopped caring. The intense rage we had at being stuck in traffic for 10 minutes each day because both the Idylwyld Bridge and the Traffic Bridge were out of commission has passed. We quickly moved back to our default mode of not acknowledging failed projects, hoping they will just go away or resolve themselves.

Chances are that the Traffic Bridge issue will not resolve itself, and we will have to go it alone. The thought so far is that we replace the old bridge with a wider version of it. The status quo wins again.

If we were to look around, we would see that other options have been very successful elsewhere. We could build an iconic pedestrian bridge on the existing piers to connect downtown and River Landing to the east side of the Meewasin Trail system and, more importantly, to the Broadway Business District.

Pedestrian bridges aren’t unique. Minneapolis has them. Calgary has the Peace Bridge. Montreal has a great one connected to its flood-control gates. Even the town of Outlook has one.

The Peace Bridge was controversial when it was installed but has since become a landmark in Calgary. It draws people from all over, and joins together two of Calgary’s vibrant communities. You could realistically see the same thing happening here with the South Downtown and Broadway Avenue.

Critics of a pedestrian bridge point out that there are sidewalks on the bridges. However, if you have ever tried to walk or ride on our bridges, it is less than a pleasant experience. These walkways are rarely swept, they are full of gravel, and they place you right up against traffic. Other cities have bridge sidewalks as well, but people flock to their pedestrian bridges.

There is a reason for it.

People are drawn to a space that is scaled and built for them.

Research from other cities has shown there are business reasons for a pedestrian bridge. Pedestrians and cyclists spend more money when out and about, especially at stores that provide bike racks. Whether it is stopping into a shop or grabbing a coffee for the walk home, the money spent locally is good for all of us.

Creating a pedestrian bridge on the old Traffic Bridge piers also would give Saskatoon an amazing prairie plaza.

Anyone who has been down in River Landing or across the river when the fireworks festival takes place understands how exciting it is to have a place where thousands of us can gather. There are the fireworks, water taxis, concerts and the buzz of tens of thousands of people coming together. Linking those two areas would allow for more events, but more importantly, it would be an important link across the river for more than just motor vehicles.

Instead of settling for the status quo, Saskatoon must think outside the box. Hold a design competition for a pedestrian replacement for the Traffic Bridge and see what happens. Put a $15 million price tag on it. Local design group OPEN has already drawn up a pedestrian bridge idea that features separate access points for bikes and pedestrians, a public space, a community garden and a zip line.

I think we would be amazed at the ideas that would come forward.

We talk about wanting to be a world-class city. Worldclass cities are not that by population size alone. They are cities with great dreams for themselves, which are expressed by great public spaces. Building a great pedestrian bridge downtown would be a good way to start.

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

100 Ideas to Improve Saskatoon: 2. Convert the Traffic Bridge into a Pedestrian Bridge

When the Traffic Bridge closed a couple of years ago, the city was in a near state of panic.  Idylwyld Bridge was being repaired and traffic was atrocious.  People screamed for a replacement bridge despite a) few people ever used it b) whenever we take one of our bridges offline, Traffic Bridge or not, downtown backs up.  

Now we have a new South Circle Drive Bridge and soon will have a new North Commuter Bridge which will change traffic patterns even more.  Despite that, City Council has decided that we need three bridges within a kilometre of each other and is dedicated to rebuilding what the city administration basically described as a surplus bridge.

There is another alternative and that is to turn it into a pedestrian bridge, something that could strengthen the ties between Nutana and the downtown core/River Landing tremendously.

Take a look at this conceptual rendering by OPEN.

Victoria bridge aerial summerFINAL 1024x514

1.new views  2.public gathering place  3.zip-line  4.enclosed vertical garden  5.separated bike/pedestrian access

As they see it.

This resulted in a ‘new’ bridge, one that retains some glory of its former self but a ‘new’ bridge that sets out to enhance the existing qualities of the river valley. While it maintains its original connection points on either side of the river it also presents new stronger connection to existing conditions. Its reconfigured spans offer new views in all directions including glass portholes that let users see below the deck. The ‘new’ bridge also proposes a zip line as a new form of passage that reconnects the bridge to Rotary Park and adds new adventure for thrill seekers alike. There is ample opportunity for gathering and a separate bicycle lane to ensure safety. It is a hub for artists, theatre groups, musicians, poets, festival and event organizers. And because Saskatchewan is known for its culture of growing, the ‘new’ bridge would provide the infrastructure required to support a vertical community garden that produces food year round.

This story ends with a ‘realized’ project that retains a piece of its past but reinterprets its trajectory to better serve and enhance the existing and future community through a representation of a perceived experience.

As other cities have shown, pedestrian cities bond a community more than a traffic bridge does.  With Saskatoon unable (and unwilling) to even clean it’s bridge decks in a timely fashion, crossing any of Saskatoon’s bridges on a wet or dry dusty day is not the most pleasant experience.  No wonder people prefer to use pedestrian bridges, especially ones that look like the rendering by OPEN.

Especially if there is a zip line.

Group touts traffic-free Traffic Bridge

A pedestrian bridge in that location could be an incredible asset to Saskatoon in linking together the Nutana area and downtown, similar to what Calgary has experienced with their pedestrian bridge.  It’s a place where people want to be.

A group of Saskatoon residents who are renewing calls to rethink the future of the derelict Traffic Bridge say a new bridge shouldn’t involve vehicle traffic at all.

“Lots and lots of people have changed their minds about that bridge. We’ve lived without it for three years,” said Marcel D’Eon, one of the founders of the Saskatoon Coalition to Revisit and Reimagine Our Urban Bridge. The group, formed in June, is the latest to call for a pedestrian-and cycling-only bridge to replace the iconic 104-year old span, which was closed permanently in 2010 because of safety concerns.

During initial public consultations, a majority of residents said they wanted a pedestrian-only bridge. Despite those findings, city council pushed ahead with plans to build a $35-million replica steel truss Traffic Bridge capable of carrying vehicles as well as people and bikes.

While there is still no funding for the bridge, city officials have applied to the federal government’s P3 fund for joint Traffic Bridge and Parkway Bridge projects that have a combined value of over $230 million. The province’s portion of the cash is expected to come through the provincial government’s SaskBuilds program. Neither level of government has confirmed its support for the project.

If funding is approved, the Traffic Bridge would be complete by 2017. It would be financed under the same scheme and built by the same company as the parkway, to save around $250,000 in costs.

By bundling the construction of a new Traffic Bridge with the north parkway project, council effectively decided for the second time that the bridge would be a vehicle bridge.

Bridge lights done right

When Saskatoon put up lights on the Traffic Bridge, it was mocked because the lines of the Traffic Bridge aren’t that pleasing (and the lights highlighted that) but also because they rarely worked right.  When they did work, the motion looked like something you would see on the Vegas strip. Year after year, something was always working poorly and in the end, the entire thing was an embarrassment to the city.  Despite our inability to do it well,  San Francisco has.  They have done an amazing job showing us how a project like this is done right.  

Hopefully if we ever decide to light a bridge up again, we do it correctly.


Councilor Mairin Loewen

Councillor Mairin Loewen

Councillor Mairin Loewen is on the latest OurYXE Podcast.  She talks about Ward 7 alleyways, bridges (we love to talk about bridges), taxes, snow removal, and her NCAA bracket.  It was a good hour long discussion where she shared some really good insight on the future of the city.  Our ambush style of questioning did take a bit of a toll when she threatened me with failing bridges but if Bob Woodward can be threatened by Obama’s staff, I can take it from Loewen.  Of course I can no longer go to the east side of the city until we get the water taxi issue sorted out.

Portraits of Saskatoon

Portraits of Saskatoon

If you are still looking for a spectacular gift with a Saskatoon theme, check out these prints by Saskatoon photographer Christina Weese of the Victoria Traffic Bridge. They look fantastic, are a limited run, and you are supporting a local artist.  Oh yeah, someone is also getting a great gift.

Speaking of the arts, I was just checking out The Stall Gallery website and noticed you can purchase works of art by my friend Brooke Graham.  The same thing could be said about giving away her work although with both of these artists, there is a temptation to turn the holidays into the season of buying art for myself.

Another way to get a bridge built

In Saskatoon bridges cost hundreds of millions of dollars, deeply divide the city, and then tend to fall down because they haven’t been properly maintained.  The locals of Nongriat in Meghalaya, India have a different approach to infrastructure, they grow it.

Another way to get a bridge built 
Another way to get a bridge built 
Another way to get a bridge built

They have been doing this for the past 500 years. Some of the bridges are 100 feet long and can hold up to 50 people (which is more than the Traffic Bridge can hold at this time).