MONDAY MORNING EDITORIAL — There wasn’t much hesitation among City councillors on spending $3.3 million to repair the old sidewalk on the west side of the Overlanders Bridge.
The sidewalk has never had any serious rehab work done to it since it was built in 1961. The supports under it have deteriorated to the point that chunks of concrete sometimes just fall off.
As public works director Jen Fretz told council, doing nothing isn’t an option.
Three options were presented, plus what we’ll call the Tina Lange option. Some councillors weren’t sure traffic over the sidewalk is enough to warrant the cost of the repair job. Coun. Arjun Singh even offered the observation that it seems to be used mostly by election candidates and protesters, though he later accepted the word of others that ordinary folks use it, too.
The options offered by staff: repair the sidewalk and concrete supports, do a deluxe upgrade with steel, or remove the sidewalk. The costs were $3.3 million, $5.6 million, and $2.3 million respectively.
Lange’s idea was to leave it all as is but to block off the sidewalk with gates and “a little razor wire.” Tempting, perhaps, but that wouldn’t solve the problem of shedding concrete from underneath.
The steel option was too rich, so the choice came down to removal or repair, a difference of $1 million. The arguments in favour of retaining the sidewalk were that it’s used frequently by pedestrians — although there are no traffic studies that back up just how frequently — and that it’s an alternative crossing should the multi-use path on the other side of the bridge be taken out of commission at some point for its own repairs.
Council erred on the side of caution and voted to spend the extra million, but the arguments in favour of it are actually pretty weak. The sidewalk was designed in an era of significantly less traffic, and much less attention to safety features.
Traversing that sidewalk is a discomforting experience. With no guardrail between pedestrians and traffic, a stumble or inadvertent sidestep could put you right into vehicular traffic (which, by the way, seldom adheres to the posted speed limit).
The multi-use path on the other side was constructed for the very reason that the sidewalk’s design is inadequate by modern standards. The new path was envisioned as an improvement on the old sidewalk, not as a supplementary crossing.
The sidewalk isn’t needed. The bridge would be fine without it.