Council to consider options for Blackfriars Bridge
The debate over ending vehicle use of the historic Blackfriars Bridge, which recently reopened after emergency repairs, has resumed after the decision to move forward with a thorough inspection.
The 138-year-old bridge was closed to vehicles for over a month starting in early February for repairs to the wooden deck surface, at a cost of $80,000.
The walkway and Thames Valley Parkway connecting Gibbons Park and Harris Park remained open during the repairs.
It was just the most recent closure connected to a string of ongoing repairs needed to maintain the structure.
Now the city’s Civic Works Committee is recommending a detailed structural inspection of the heritage bridge, which could cost an estimated $307,000.
A similar inspection, which would involve special scaffolding to look at the underside of the bridge, hasn’t been done in 25 years and would likely require closure of the bridge for another four or five weeks.
The high cost has again raised questions about whether the unique bridge should be turned into a pedestrian-only zone.
Area resident Wilfred Shiell says if it was up to him there would be no cars or trucks on the bridge, “I get lots of comments from people. Everybody loves the bridge, they want to keep the bridge 100 per cent and they want to get the traffic off it.”
But Councillor Paul Van Meerbergen, who chairs the Civic Works Committee, says the city can’t afford to lose the traffic artery.
“If we find out from this detailed study that this bridge could perhaps hold metal cladding or perhaps something more robust, we could very well find ourselves with a much heartier bridge which would require much less maintenance.”
Blackfriars connects Ridout Street to Wharncliffe Road and is a rare wrought iron bowstring truss bridge that is among only 19 remaining in North America.
It is the only one of its kind in Canada and the only one that still carries two lanes of traffic. About 4,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily and the city spends $35,000 on repairs annually.
Councillor Judy Bryant says whether cars are banned or not “We have an opportunity to get really accurate information on every bolt, every strut and every beam of that bridge.”