Dozens of people gathered on the western side of London’s Blackfriars Bridge Thursday morning to give the historic span an official send-off ahead of its planned dismantling and removal for rehabilitation.
Originally built in 1875 with a modest price tag of $14,000, the bridge will soon undergo a $7.9-million rehabilitation, set to be finished by the end of next year.
Several local politicians and community members were on hand for Thursday’s event, including Mayor Matt Brown, London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos, and city and university representatives.
Doug MacRae, manager of transportation planning and design for the city of London, said crews will be preparing the structure over the next week or so with plans to remove it by the end of the month.
“It’s a long span, not so much a heavy span, but a long span,” he said. “The reach that the cranes need to achieve to lift the bridge is significant. These cranes aren’t seen around London very often, it’ll be an impressive operation.”
The timeline is subject to the weather and the availability of the cranes, but MacRae says they will make the public aware when they plan to lift the structure from its current location.
The bridge has been closed to vehicles since 2013, but once restored, will be accessible by pedestrians, cyclists, and eastbound vehicular traffic. MacRae says the project should extend the bridge’s lifespan by at least 75 years.
“It’s going to include much of the old structure, it’ll be safe and functional, it’s really going to look good,” he said.
In 2016, the wrought-iron bridge was recognized as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering. It was designated a heritage structure in 1992.
Heritage planner with the city of London, Kyle Gonyou, says keeping the structure’s historic integrity is a priority.
“There will be some modifications to bring it up to the latest bridge codes. What we will see is some of the elimination of the members that were added in the 1950s which kind of diminished the elegance of the structure, and made it a little bit clumsy,” said Gonyou.
“We’re going to see a bridge that’s much closer to its appearance in 1875 when it was first built.”
Gonyou says they will be documenting the project with pictures and videos as the rehabilitation continues, which will be posted online for the public to view.
The re-installation of the bridge is expected to take place late in 2018.