Opposition to foot bridge growing

By Amanda Quinn

With over $75 million worth of funding cuts to city services on the way, area residents and some city councillors are upset about proposed plans for the construction of a $4.8-million pedestrian bridge over the Rideau Canal at Somerset Street West.

“It blows my mind,” says Jim Dean of Somerset Street.

The bridge would be located 400 metres south of the Laurier Avenue bridge.

Supporters of the new bridge say it would encourage residents to travel from Sandy Hill to the downtown core by foot or bicycle.

Due to the city’s current financial situation where many city services are on the budget chopping block, building a bridge similar to one in the same area doesn’t make sense, Dean says.

“Even if you are a supporter of the bridge, you couldn’t be a supporter to the detriment of thousands of people who will lose firefighters and services for our senior citizens,” he says.

The new bridge has been in the planning stages since 1980, but budget constraints have put it on hold several times.

Somerset Ward Coun. Diane Holmes is the driving force behind the bridge. Leading up to the recent budget deliberations, she said more money was needed for construction to begin.

The city has allocated $200,000 to design the bridge; however, a tight budget has postponed construction until 2005.

Innes ward Coun. Rainer Bloess says dealing with debt must be the city’s priority, not building a second pedestrian bridge.

“I’m a supporter of doing stuff when you have the money for it,” he says. “I can’t justify the price of this project.”

Bloess says the cost is too high, considering the minimal benefit the bridge would bring to the city. Although some argue it would bring more people to the Transitway by the University of Ottawa, Bloess says that’s not worth $4.8 million.

“Putting in this bridge, sure it will help some people like students,” he says. “But the cost of this bridge is just unreal.”

Bloess says the project would be useful for him, but it doesn’t change his position on the issue.

“By the way, I’m a cyclist. I almost biked to work today, and it would be of use to me,” he says. “But I still can’t justify it.”

University of Ottawa student Awo Nuuh uses the Laurier bridge every morning on her way to school. She says the construction of a second bridge is “absurd.”

“The city should invest the money in the community services they’re chopping,” she says. “These services need money and the city can’t just throw it away on a bridge.”

More thought is needed before construction begins, Nuuh adds.

“They should do a cost-benefit analysis and make a decision based on that. Maybe that will change their minds.”