Tuesday, November 23, 2010

And now what . . .

For most of the last two years the Johnson St. Bridge has drawn the attention of council and the community while we worked, sometimes awkwardly it seems, to reach the point now where the path forward is clear and new tasks will be undertaken.

A strong endorsement of the city's request for our financing plan puts to rest the debate over saving the old or building something new.  Last Saturday's referendum generated a turnout, high enough by municipal standards, and clear enough with just over 60% support, to signal that our citizens have trusted that the work done to date on the key issues facing the city has pointed us in the right direction.

A new bridge has always been the most practical and sustainable choice.  The cost of restoring, and especially maintaining, the old bridge, have always been unpalatable, and too fraught with uncertainty.  The opportunities provided by building new too important to defer for the decades we might have extracted from the Blue bridge. 

It will be designed to withstand the most serious of earthquakes, an important consideration in Canada's most seismically vulnerable city.  It will incorporate the resilience of newer, more durable, and more sensible mechanics and electronics that will last a century.  Perhaps most significantly, it will democratize transportation for generations to come.  Nowhere in the capital is it more important to retool our infrastructure to better support cycling and walking.  And it will unfold in a manner that protects and supports a vibrant downtown that is the centrepiece of our regional economy.

We have much work to do.  Detailed design and the hands on work that will piece together the new bridge will begin in earnest soon.  We'll be watching every step, as will those excited by the new bridge and those who feel the loss of the old bridge more acutely.  They too, have spoken and we will do well to find ways to celebrate the eventual passing of the old bridge, seek opportunities to repurpose elements of the structure or preserve some of its history in our public art.

There is much else to be done.  Sometimes more quietly it seems, we have made much progress on issues of homelessness and housing.  We are inching forward on the sewage issue.  Building a vision of our future and shoring up the walkable and bike friendly villages across the city is hustling along through our community planning process.  Regional transportation, where we play a central role, is getting a makeover with new options for public transit to emerge in the new year.  There is so much more on the go.

And all the while, the exciting evolution of our new bridge will unfold before our eyes.

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