Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bridge the gap

I was one of the souls that attended the Traffic Bridge forum last night. I was surprised by the turnout, but not by the special interest groups present.

As I began my trek around the room, the first pitch came from a young man hyping the concept of a market bridge "just like in Europe", which was not one of the options. I asked him what market bridges in Europe he was referring to and he couldn't name me any. I asked him how he thought our climate would affect such a project, that when it was -40 with the wind chill coming off the ice/water, whether he thought people would actually go out and wandering the shops/stands on such a bridge. He thought it could be a spring/summer venue. How would that impact on the Farmers' Market/Square that is already under-utilized? He glazed over and was already looking over my shoulder for a new prospect. When I asked him how area residents would access their homes without vehicle traffic allowed on the bridge he suggested the new South Bridge would remedy that little problem. When he finally understood that driving around the perimeter of the city to get into some Nutana areas probably wasn't a good idea, he suggested that re-configuring the roadway systems in the affected areas probably wouldn't cost too much. With that last comment, one of the attendees listening to our conversation said to the young man "You're nuts" and we all moved on.

There was a smaller group, being those who wanted a pedi/cyclist only bridge, trying to work up the whomever would listen that council's decision to limit the options to the proposed four was undemocratic. They were not unhappy though to lose the option of tearing down the bridge and replacing it with nothing. I got the sense that if you lived in the area and couldn't walk or bike that you could then "get out of Dodge."

Needless to say, the heritage folks were out in full force with "save the bridge at any cost." There were some folks with backgrounds in engineering mumbling that the cost of a rehab was light and that this option, if exercised, would be like a run-a-way train once started.

I got the sense that the proposed "signature bridge" got very little support from those in attendance. The most common adjective used was "ugly."

I suspect that the option most favoured was a new truss bridge with a new conventional bridge running a close second. A sure bet would be a quennila.

If council really wanted broad public feedback they could have put the same survey in the utility bills that go to residents. It would reach a wider cross-section of citizens that do not stump for any special interest group.

I had hoped that there would have been stations manned by knowledgeable people who could have answered questions. It might have offered informed feedback rather than emotional or unemotional comments.

The ultimate feedback would be a referendum. It would be costly, but less so than what we will ultimately be spending.

The jury is out.


  1. I found the people manning the stations were very knowledgeable as they were able to answer every question that I had as well as those of the people standing around me. I was also impressed to see councillors Wyant, Hill, Paulsen, Lorje and Clark there. I can not remember last time I saw five councillors at a public event where there was not a free meal involved. Suspiciously, the Mayor was nowhere to be found! Perhaps there was a free meal on the other side of town.

  2. I arrived at 7:15 and the only councillor present was Clark. I several times stopped people wearing badges and asked who was present that could answer my questions (I needed an engineer.) Three people were pointed out to me. I waited for 15 minutes to speak with one of them who responded to my question with "I don't know. Ask the guy over there wearing the striped shirt."

    The Fast Consulting staff simply handed out felt markers and post it notes and invited attendees to help themselves to refreshments.

  3. The true test of the honesty of the whole prcess is to tell people ahead of time the options that will be on the table, exactly as council did. Leaving it open to ten options that might have been real and viable in June but were no longer viable in August would have been dishonest. Unfortunately for a lot of the proponents for the pedestrian, cycle it is more about taking away something from somebody than it is about improving any thing.

  4. So why is it I can receive an information package in my electric or water bill from the city when it comes to items like licensing my dog but when an important item to do with a major traffic concern the city wants you to drive to and "open" house in the middle of the city?? I doubt many outside the area would even be interested. I would love for them to publish the results of where the people came from that answered the questions. BTW this was a process that was started prior to the fact the bridge was now in danger of collapse and the so called "process" shouldn't have been the same using information that just clouded the issue. Those that came out to speak to a walking/cycling bridge should take their opinion directly to council not make a mockery of the event. As for the information provided there was one person that could answer the tough questions funny thing is none of the answers were readily available for the general public such as how the estimates were developed and what environmental regulations will need to be adhered too. Thanks Council for focusing on the right options but I'd ask for my money back from those that operated the open house.


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