The Terwillegar Park Footbridge is open for pedestrians and cyclists.
The City of Edmonton held a grand opening for the footbridge and West End Trails Friday morning.
“The Terwillegar Park Bridge and West End Trails will help create more opportunities for families to get outside and enjoy Edmonton’s parks and trails from both sides of the North Saskatchewan River,” Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee said.
Construction of the $24.5-million footbridge began in August 2014 and construction of the $3.5-million trails began in July 2015. The complete trail connections and the footbridge opened for the public Friday, although sections of the trail opened earlier this year.
The footbridge’s stressed ribbon design is unique because there’s a small footprint when it comes to the impact on the river valley. There are only about 60 of this type of bridge in the world, and it’s the second-longest suspension ribbon bridge in the world at 262 metres.
Michael Walters, who is currently deputy mayor, said there is a vision to have thousands of people come to the river valley as a result of the footbridge.
“When you have uninterrupted opportunities to get over the river and have a connected trail, people are certainly more interested in being down here,” he said.
He said the stressed ribbon design of the bridge allows people focus more on the aesthetics of the river valley.
“It’s not about the bridge. It’s about how the bridge works with the valley. When people come down here, everything they see is beautiful. That’s what we’re trying to maintain and I think that’s what citizens expect.”
Rob Marchak, the director of urban initiatives for the City of Edmonton, said the footbridge has “a very light, delicate footprint within the river valley.”
The stressed ribbon design means there are no overhead cables like in a suspension bridge; rather the cables are in the bridge deck.
“It’s a rope bridge we’ve put together with high-tech components. What we’ve really done here is we’ve taken steel cables suspended from bank to bank and across two piers. They actually sway like any cable you would put between two objects. On top of those cables, we actually lay concrete panels, put a wear surface on top – very simple technology in terms of how they put it together,” he said.
Nicole Olivier took a morning run across the bridge and said it will change how she interacts with her running friends.
“He lives on that side of the river and I live on this side of the river. I’ve been waiting anxiously for the bridge to open for a long time,” she said.
Cyclist Trevor Johnson said he has also been eagerly waiting for the footbridge to open.
“I’ve been living in the city my whole life – riding up and down the river valley. I’ve been waiting since I was 12 years old for them to actually finish the entire length of the river valley. Now it’s done,” he said.
Johnson said the footbridge allows him to take a more direct route through the river valley, as opposed to a detour that would cost him an hour’s time.
“It opens up a lot more land and a lot more opportunities.”
The bridge was paid for by grants from the city, the River Valley Alliance–which is made up of seven municipalities along the river including Edmonton–as well as the provincial and federal governments.
“As a former city councillor, I know how important the new bridge and trails are to the people of Edmonton,” Federal Infrastructure and Communities Minister Amarjeet Sohi said.
“The larger River Valley Alliance Capital Program is a wonderful initiative that will improve access to the North Saskatchewan River and make our community more livable for decades to come.”
The remaining Edmonton River Valley Alliance projects include the Mechanized River Valley Access, East End Trails, Touch the Water Promenade and Boat Docks and Launches.
Watch below: Twelve months of the year, the River Valley gives Edmontonians a chance to enjoy nature. Friday, a new multi-million dollar footbridge was officially added to the network of trials. Tom Vernon has more.