Mayor seeks peace with name of pedestrian bridge

A contentious new $22-million pedestrian link will be called the Peace Bridge, Calgary city council decided in a closed meeting.

A contentious new $22-million pedestrian link will be called the Peace Bridge, Calgary city council decided in a closed meeting.

Mayor Dave Bronconnier said Monday that the bridge's name alludes to its link to Peace Park at Seventh Street S.W. on the south side of the Bow River, as well as its future location along Memorial Drive, which was named in honour of soldiers killed in the First World War.

"It is about peace and that's something that Canadians are known globally for," said Bronconnier.

"Peace Bridge really connects with what Canada's military speaks of, what Memorial Drive represents, and that is that people who have given the ultimate sacrifice should be remembered."

Council approved $25 million in September 2008 to design and construct a footbridge for pedestrians and bicycles west of Prince's Island Park that would connect Eau Claire to Sunnyside.

The funding, from provincial infrastructure grants, also covers the costs of a conceptual design for a second bridge at the west end of St. George's Island.

"The money would be better spent somewhere else and we can easily name one or more of the current bridges on Memorial Drive in honour of our soldiers and that would be a better idea," said Ald. Ric McIver, who has tried but failed to convince council to scrap the plan.

Attempt to make bridges more palatable

Other aldermen mused that Bronconnier's attempt to brand the bridge with a military connection — an idea that the mayor floated publicly on the weekend — was a scheme to quiet the public backlash against the project.

"It certainly does make something that's been perceived by the public as a poor decision or in poor taste more palatable, something that is more likely to be accepted by the general public because of the fact it is tied to the military," said Ald. Andre Chabot.

Bronconnier said the pedestrian span is a necessity that will be used by more than 5,000 people daily.

"It's an important piece of Calgary's legacy. It's a significant piece of infrastructure. It should be built to last," he said.

The bridge's design by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava will be revealed this week, according to a report. It's scheduled to be completed in late 2010.