I can sympathize with those people inconvenienced by the closure of the Dawson Bridge. I began using it myself when I moved to Edmonton twenty years ago, finding it a fast and relatively congestion-free way to get to and from the downtown core. Two decades later, even after moving away from Forest Heights to a rural area east of the city, I have continued to commute into downtown Edmonton using the Dawson Bridge.
It might be the least-used bridge in town (at only 4 per cent of bridge traffic overall), but as at least 16,000 of us know, it’s convenient and quick. All the more reason, then, for the City of Edmonton to invest its time and effort now to make sure that we have the chance to use it for the next fifty years.
It’s not just about new paint and wider sidewalks, although those will be the most visible improvements when the work is done. The deck is being replaced with a long-lasting, durable surface that will make for a smoother ride and need fewer repairs. Bolts will take the place of aged rivets, and weak trusses will be strengthened fixed so that the bridge remains structurally sound well into the future.
In the meantime, there are quite a few ways into downtown and I scoped them out over the weekend so that I’d know which way to go once the closure was in effect. I came in on 101 Ave. (Baseline Road in Sherwood Park) this morning and went north on Wayne Gretzky Drive (the Capilano Bridge) until I got to 112 Ave and headed west. It was a quick few blocks to a left turn on 82 Street, and then an easy commute into the core on Jasper Ave. Depending on where folks are coming from, it might be faster to use the James MacDonald or Low Level Bridge, but each person will have to map a route out for themselves and discover which one works best.
At 97 years old, the bridge is a wonderful link between Edmonton’s past and present, a piece of the city’s history that has remained an important part of our capital infrastructure. And although the work that has to be done will take almost a year, it will be worth it in the long run…for those of us who love to drive it every day, and for those using it to access local businesses, walking trails and bike paths.