It will be a few years yet before anyone walks across Fort Saskatchewan's Highway 15 pedestrian bridge.
The $4.5 million foot crossing over the North Saskatchewan River is currently in the design phase, with about six months left to go before the next steps in the project begin. Construction of the pedestrian bridge, which will be partly funded by the city, will start when the Highway 15 twinning gets underway. That project will see a new vehicle bridge built alongside the existing one, making more room for cars on the sometimes congested route.
“Eventually after the construction, the existing bridge will become a one directional bridge. And the new bridge we're going to build will become another directional bridge,” said Jeff Zhang, construction manager for Alberta Transportation.
Three options were considered for giving pedestrians in Fort Saskatchewan a way to get safely across the river to Sturgeon County.
The first design possibility -- making use of some existing former railway bridge piers at a cost of roughly $13 million -- was previously looked at by city council.
Option two was a sidewalk-style design not unlike Edmonton’s High Level Bridge, with bicycles and pedestrians allotted space on either side of a vehicle roadway.
Possibility three, the most likely choice according to Zhang, will see a four metre pedestrian walkway built underneath the revamped traffic bridge in a design similar to the one used in the Anthony Henday bridge in southwest Edmonton.
“Out of the three options that we considered, putting the pedestrian bridge underneath the new bridge seems to be the most effective and efficient way of accommodating pedestrian traffic,” Zhang said.
Council and the public got a glimpse at the underslung bridge design at a June council meeting, when the River Valley Alliance asked the city to be a partner in funding the foot crossing. Council agreed to provide up to $1 million towards the cost of the bridge and to take care of its routine maintenance.
“The underneath pedestrian bridge will be constructed through the piers,” Zhang said of underslung design. “When we build river bridges, there's massive piers that we have to put in the river, and we have to make a hole in the pier to accommodate for this pedestrian bridge. It's almost going through a tunnel.”
It will be another few months before design plans for the pedestrian bridge are finalized. The current schedule has construction on the bridge project slotted to begin in 2019.
"When the design is finalized in the next half a year, we will have more details obviously to communicate," Zhang said.