For Betty, who has “lived in Edmonton for almost 70 years and is still walking wherever I can,” the new Walterdale bridge project comes right down to the birds on the river.
“They were all standing over there, eight or 10 white birds,” Betty said as she pointed across the North Saskatchewan from a trail down the stairs from the bridge’s southeast plaza.
“It was just the way they all stood next to each other in a perfect line and perfectly still on the shore, with the same room between them. It was like sailors presenting arms. It was quite something to see.”
Quite something to see is a common refrain when the Walterdale Bridge project is the topic of conversation, as it was on September 6 when Betty joined a hundred or so other Edmontonians at a public ceremony marking the latest milestone in the landmark project—the now opened trail and staircase system on both sides of the bridge.
The $155-million Walterdale Bridge Replacement Project began in spring 2013. In September 2017, the bridge opened to vehicle traffic. Two months later, the iconic, curved shared-use path opened.
At the ceremony to open the trails and park space, Adam Laughlin, the Deputy City Manager of Integrated Infrastructure Services, called the project “a signature piece of infrastructure that will serve Edmontonians for the next 100 years.”
Laughlin said the project is the visible proof of other bridges built and maintained in the community.
“We appreciate the partnerships developed through consultation with First Nations and the Métis Nation of Alberta during this and many other City of Edmonton projects,” Laughlin said.
Audrey Poitras, president of the Métis Nation of Alberta, thanked the project managers for “ensuring cultural landmarks were kept safe” during design and construction of the bridge and trails.
“I hope you all enjoy our bridge,” Poitras said.
The event wrapped up with a colourful display at dusk of the bridge’s LED lighting tracks.
The City of Edmonton’s Ryan Teplitsky managed the project. A professional engineer by training, Ryan worked with design consultants (bridges, roads, landscaping, archeological, environmental, geotechnical, Indigenous) and construction contractors (project managers, steel fabricators, steel assembly, roads, temporary works, foundations, landscaping, concrete, earthworks) to deliver a bridge that delivers the goods.
It conveys three lanes of vehicle traffic.
It provides a wide and elegant shared-use path for pedestrians and cyclists.
It gives Edmontonians a soaring piece of infrastructure that supports a little bragging.
It delivers to Betty, and Edmontonians like her, a new way to move and see and new things about the city to ponder.
“I love Edmonton,” Teplitsky said. “And I’ve always felt our city deserves great things that showcase how beautiful it is here. This project is one of a kind. Near the end of the project, my favourite thing to do was to ask people what they thought of the bridge, and hearing overwhelmingly positive responses. The project had its share of frustration, but those responses—like Betty’s—confirms my feeling this bridge was worth the wait.”
For Betty, the Walterdale Bridge project, for all its engineering marvels and its breathtaking views and iconic architecture, is about getting closer to the water.
“This water has been a second home for me,” Betty said. “Now, I can be here in the middle of the city and walk under the bridge and you can’t really even tell there is traffic above you. It is so impressive. It’s quite something.”