So, if you like Flora… How about another footbridge?

John Dance

“Why should taxes be wasted on a bridge to nowhere?” one Glebe resident asked a decade ago when the Old Ottawa East Community Association (OOECA) and other community associations began their quest for a footbridge over the Canal.

Some of us in OOE thought “nowhere” was not a nice way of describing the Glebe, however, the resident was probably referring to Old Ottawa East. But today, as a result of a lot of effort by many people and funding from municipal, provincial and federal taxpayers, the Flora Footbridge was built and has become a key route for many of us.

Now the community association wants the City of Ottawa to consider building a second much more modest and low-cost footbridge: one running from the eastern end of Clegg Street across the Rideau River to what some might regard as nowhere, but really isn’t.

The proposed Clegg Street-Riverview Park footbridge would connect the many walking and cycling routes of Old Ottawa East with routes to the east and south.  Image Supplied

The proposed Clegg Street-Riverview Park footbridge would connect the many walking and cycling routes of Old Ottawa East with routes to the east and south. Image Supplied


The bridge would provide a safe alternative to taking McIlraith (Smyth) Bridge and then Smyth Road. The Smyth Bridge is not bad for cycling – aside from dealing with traffic merging to and from Riverside Drive – but Smyth Road is and is likely to remain unsafe and unpleasant for pedestrians and cyclists. It has no bike lanes and there is no room to build them.

Access from the west to the Smyth Hospital Campus would become much easier and convenient if a footbridge were built. And, with the new Hospital Link pathway and route through the hydro corridor, cyclists would have an enjoyable and convenient way of getting across the City without going downtown to Laurier or travelling to the busy Baseline-Heron and Hunt Club “cross-town” routes. Similarly, the new footbridge would provide a link to the pathway going through the Alta Vista Transportation Corridor all the way to the bike lanes on Conroy Road.

The new footbridge would also complete a Rideau Canal – River loop with three other footbridges: our Flora, Corktown linking Centretown and Sandy Hill, and Adàwe linking Sandy Hill and Vanier/Overbrook. Adàwe, with its wonderful views, allows an added appreciation of the Rideau River and, likewise, the proposed footbridge would further enhance our access to and appreciation of the river.

Just as Flora has better connected the Glebe, Old Ottawa East and Old Ottawa South, the proposed footbridge would connect Riverview Park and Alta Vista to our communities. Riverview Park is bounded on the west by the Rideau River, on the north by the CN railway tracks, on the east by St. Laurent Boulevard, and on the south by Smyth Road. It has a population equal to OOE and OOS combined, yet with only road bridges, it seems unconnected to our communities. It definitely is not “nowhere.”

With a new footbridge, there would be ready access to the large green space on the eastern side of the river. Also, for some, the Hurdman LRT station would become more convenient than the Lees station.

And a bridge would make it easier for that east of the Rideau River to bike to Lansdowne Park rather than trying to fight the horrendous vehicular traffic of big-event days.

Unlike the Rideau Canal footbridges, this one could be modestly and less expensively constructed. There are no World Heritage Site obligations to satisfy, nor are there any navigation requirements aside for enough height to allow spring flow and the ice-breaking machine.

Indeed, the OOECA recommends that the economy be the prime evaluation factor in consideration of bids for the design of the bridge. In its simplest form, the bridge could be three simple 30-metre pre-fabricated pieces like the modest one over a Canal inlet in the Experimental Farm, opposite Colonel By Drive just south of Dow’s Lake.

Corktown Footbridge took about 15 years to get built and Flora took about 10 years because it’s a long process assessing needs and impacts; getting necessary approvals and funding, and then actually building the structure.

But there is a growing awareness that we need to drive less and walk, bike and transit travel more. And for many of us, new “active transportation” infrastructure such as the proposed footbridge is seen as a valuable investment to improve the city’s infrastructure fabric.

So who knows – maybe it will take less time to have another footbridge built than it did for Flora and her partners. Friends tell me I’ll be dead by the time the city gets around to building another footbridge in Old Ottawa East, but I hope they are wrong.

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