Grand River bridge decades in mak­ing in Cam­bridge

Waterloo Region Record - - LOCAL - Jeff Hicks, Record staff jhicks@there­cord.com

CAM­BRIDGE — A brand-new, rusty-look­ing pedes­trian bridge?

That’s what is stretch­ing across the Grand River in Galt.

“It’s quite easy to main­tain,” project man­ager Shane Tay­lor said of the rusted fin­ish of the made-in-Ayr, corten steel walk­ing bridge that could open af­ter Christ­mas.

“If graf­fiti ends up on it, you can wire-brush it off and it looks just the way it did within a cou­ple of days.”

So this is an old no-paint-re­quired look to a new idea, right? Wrong.

This 100-me­tre wood-bot­tom dash across the Grand, from near an east-side Wa­ter Street South flower shop to a west-side sculp­ture gar­den on Grand Av­enue South is hardly a new concept.

The mayor didn’t just come up with this back-to-the-river idea lead­ing into last elec­tion cam­paign. This an­ti­quated no­tion goes back at least 32 years, Tay­lor says.

This goes back to 1985 when the Grand River Con­ser­va­tion Author­ity was do­ing some chan­nel-blast­ing to in­crease flood ca­pac­ity.

Three con­crete pil­lars from an old rail­way spur bridge were to be blown to smithereens.

Not so fast, the city said to the con­ser­va­tion author­ity.

“They were tak­ing all three of them down,” ex­plained Tay­lor, city land­scape ar­chi­tect who stum­bled upon let­ters and re­ports from the mid-80s.

“Our de­part­ment stepped in and said, ‘We ac­tu­ally want to in­stall a pedes­trian bridge here in the fu­ture. Can you keep the mid­dle one? So the GRCA did.”

Not only did they save it, they even re­in­forced it with mas­sive con­crete foot­ings.

And that’s what you have hold­ing the cir­cu­lar cen­tre view­ing area of the new $2-mil­lion pedes­trian bridge and walk­way areas that were sup­posed to open in time for Thurs­day’s ethe­real-mu­sic, artsy Unsilent Night pub­lic walk through the Galt core. But some key parts have yet to ar­rive. Waist-high glass rail­ings, with alu­minum top rail, are on back or­der. They’re cru­cial safety fea­tures of the mid­dle-of-the­bridge, open-air view­ing area right above the old pier. Un­til they ar­rive and are in­stalled, the bridge can’t open. “It’s just not safe enough,” Tay­lor said. So the Unsilent Night walk­ing route was re­drawn to not cross the pedes­trian bridge, which started go­ing up in June. In­stead, the route was to cross the Main Street bridge twice, loop­ing in front of the pedes­trian bridge at the sculp­ture gar­dens.

And while Christ­mas-minded strollers passed the rusty-look­ing new bridge, they could take a long look at its two spans stretch­ing out from the old rail­way bridge pier. One is shorter than the other. The west half is 46 me­tres. The east half, clos­est to down­town, is 54.

And the longer east half has thicker struc­ture.

“You wouldn’t no­tice that un­less you look closely,” Tay­lor said.

At least both sides are equally rusty­look­ing.

PETER LEE, RECORD STAFF

The new pedes­trian bridge in Galt. The bridge will pro­vide non-ve­hic­u­lar ac­cess across the Grand River be­tween Founder’s Point and the Cam­bridge Sculp­ture Gar­den.

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