Walterdale Bridge worth saving, says mayor

Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel is trying to throw a lifeline to the aging Walterdale Bridge.
A city report estimates the cost of keeping at least part of the Walterdale bridge to be $5 million. The bridge will be replaced by a new signature bridge in 2015. (CBC)

Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel is trying to throw a lifeline to the aging Walterdale Bridge.

The bridge is to be replaced in 2015, but Mandel believes the span should be salvaged as a relic of Edmonton's past.   

"If it can be saved and can be incorporated in a positive manner for the new bridge, great. If it can't be, then we'll have to look at the alternatives," he said.  

"I don't have any real love for it, even if it's historical so we have to preserve it some way or form. So how do we do it with the least cost to the citizens of Edmonton?" 

A city report estimates the cost of demolishing the bridge at $3.7 million, slightly less than the cost of keeping at least part of it intact.

Retaining one of the existing three bridge spans in the current location as a public plaza would cost about $5 million, the report.

"A single remaining span can pay homage to the historical nature of the existing bridge," concluded the report. "It is possible to build a restaurant on the bank adjacent to the bridge and use this remaining span as the patio or outdoor space."

The report also looked at moving the bridge to another location, estimated to cost $27.5 million — more than it would cost to construct a new bridge.

The report also estimated the cost of using the bridge to accommodate a restaurant and plaza at $25 million.

Maintaining the old bridge next to the city's new signature structure after 2015 would be ridiculous, Coun. Bryan Anderson said.

The new bridge is something people will stop to photograph and immediately to the west will be the "Walterdale mess," he said.

"I just think that when you're spending $40 million to make this an iconic piece of new infrastructure that could conceivably last 150 years, it doesn't make to me a lot of sense in confusing that signature appearance with a piece of 70-year-old, girder-style bridging."

Mandel asked administration for another report on the cost of maintaining the bridge for pedestrian and cycling traffic with the possiblity of adding vendors or an outdoor farmers' market.

That report should be in the hands of councillors in January.