Manitoba

Winnipeg councillor wants Arlington Bridge to become Reconciliation Way

A rookie city councillor is proposing to rename Winnipeg's Arlington Bridge to show respect to the city's Indigenous population.

'We're reconciling the entire city and bridging that gap'

The Arlington Bridge spans the railway yards that separate the North End from downtown Winnipeg. (CBC)

A rookie city councillor is proposing to rename Winnipeg's Arlington Bridge to show respect to the city's Indigenous population.

Point Douglas Coun. Vivian Santos will table a motion at the Lord Selkirk-West Kildonan Community Committee next week to change the 107-year-old structure's name to Reconciliation Way.

"I'm doing it as a gesture and because it is very symbolic. I want to be able to reach out to the Indigenous community," Santos said.

"It's in the centre of Winnipeg, in the middle of the city, and connects the North End to the south end. We're reconciling the entire city and bridging that gap."

She had discussed the idea while working as executive assistant to Mike Pagtakhan, the area's long-time councillor. He decided not to run in last year's civic election, opening the door for Santos to run for his seat on council, which she won.

"When he sprung it on me that he wasn't seeking re-election, Mike said, 'Go ahead, you can use this for yourself. It's a great motion and I'll let you take it.'"

The Arlington Bridge was completed in 1912. (Jules Runne/CBC)

The Arlington Bridge, which spans the railway yards that separate the North End from downtown Winnipeg, was completed in 1912 and has undergone numerous repairs. City council was first told in 1967 that it was approaching the end of its useful life, but replacement plans have routinely been put off in favour of repairs.

In 2014, the city revealed the bridge had been found unsafe for drivers and should be closed within five years. It then launched a year-long study to figure out if it should be rebuilt, or if drivers can get through the area a different way.

Two years later, the city allocated $2 million for a preliminary bridge replacement study. That resulted in estimates of just over $330 million for a new bridge, with construction to begin in 2020.

The city then turned to Winnipeggers for feedback, hosting a series of open houses, and unveiled the latest design and proposal early in 2018.

The design preferred by city engineers is a 550-metre bridge supported in the centre by a steel-tied arch that would rise 45 metres off the ground.

The design preferred by city engineers is a 550-metre bridge supported in the centre by a steel-tied arch that would rise 45 metres off the ground. (Lyza Sale/CBC)

The new bridge would also be three lanes wide, rather than the current two, but would be expandable to four lanes in the event McPhillips Street is closed for construction.

The city said it would need to secure federal and provincial funding, then take another two years to complete a detailed design and acquire 46 parcels of land required to complete the job by 2024.

Santos said she expects the next update on the project and the final design to come out this year.

A new structure would take on her proposed name change, should it eventually be approved by council, she said.

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