A solution to the Eagleson Bridge nightmare
The Eagleson Bridge over Highway 417 is set to remain open for pedestrians in winter 2015, according to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.
The bridge's sidewalks were shut down last winter after the City of Ottawa put up signs banning pedestrians from crossing the bridge. The city said the sidewalks were too narrow to clear safely.
The MTO has confirmed that it will be reconstructing the sidewalks in order to allow winter maintenance this construction season, between late summer and end of December. MTO's regional communications coordinator Brandy Duhaime said the repairs would be done by this winter.
Duhaime said, "MTO is making changes to the drainage details and guide rail on the approaches to the bridge to provide a flatter and wider path for pedestrians over the bridge," adding that a two metre width of concrete sidewalk will be provided on the bridge itself.
However, the lack of sidewalks on the bridge is not the only problem commuters face. Pedestrians also have difficulty walking towards the bridge because there is no sidewalk currently leading to it. Pedestrians have worn a path into the grass with their footprints but in the winter it's not visible.
The sidewalk on the bridge is the responsibility of the MTO, while the city is responsible for any sidewalks leading to it.
The city has confirmed that a sidewalk leading to the bridge is planned for the fall construction period. However, no details are yet available as to when the sidewalk will be completed.
"The city has undertaken to design sidewalks leading to the bridge on Eagleson Road since MTO does not provide those accesses and there are no sidewalks there," said Vivi Chi, manager of transportation planning for the city.
Numerous Ottawans had trouble dealing with the bridge's inaccessibility this past winter. Many risked going over the snow-covered bridge in order to get to the other side of Highway 417 and to and from the park and ride.
"You were basically taking your life into your own hands. You're walking on the shoulder of the road hoping you don't get hit by a car," Kanata resident Julie Gourley said.
Last winter as Gourley drove over Eagleson Bridge, she saw a man struggling to cross it.
He kept looking around, she said, trying to find some way to go over. The snow banks were large and left no room for walking so she honked her horn at him, lowered her window and asked if he needed a short ride over the bridge.
"He was trying to get a better look. I could tell by the expression on his face that he was trying to figure out if he could cross safely," she said.
"He was very grateful for my help. I don't know what he would have done. There needs to be a safer way for pedestrians to cross over the bridge."