A much-loved bridge is moving back — piece by piece — to its home in the Blackfriars neighbourhood.
Twelve wrought-iron pieces that make the first arch of the historic Blackfriars Bridge lay on their side on Tuesday morning on the west side of the Thames River, where construction crews will spend the next few weeks welding the structure back together as part of a large rehabilitation project.
Once reassembled, the city’s transportation manager, Doug McRae, says the arch will be lifted into a vertical position before crews move on to welding together the pieces of the second arch.
It’s unclear exactly when the next step — lifting the bridge back onto its abutments — will happen. But McRae says the work leading up to that move will span the next month.
“Our current approach, for the 2000s, is to avoid as much work in the river as possible,” he said, adding that elements like its deck and floor beams will be added after it spans the Thames River again.
Although unable to say just how much of the old bridge has been kept throughout the rehabilitation project, McRae emphasized a focus on preserving visible heritage features.
“The pheonix shape on the arch, the lattice on the vertical hangers, and the horiztonal cross bracings, the pedestrian railing — it’s not back on site yet but when it arrives, you’ll see that it’s all the original wrought iron. Those are the components that we were able to re-utilize and re-instate to their original beauty,” he explained.
That’s in part because the design requirements are “much more rigorous” than they were in 1875 — when the Blackfriars Bridge was first erected.
PHOTOS: Historic photos of Blackfriars Bridge
“In conjunction with using as much of the wrought iron as possible, there are additional steel components that are added to make it a safe crossing.”
Linda Munn lives in Blackfriars, the area where she was born some sixty years ago. She says the bridge has always been an important fixture in the neighbourhood, and she’s pleased that it’s making its slow return.
“It’s like an old friend has been taken away from us,” she explained, describing the rehabilitation as its “rebirth.”
“We realize that changes have to be made because the structure has to withstand years to come, so that’s okay. So long as the bridge comes back.”
The $7.9-million rehabilitation, being worked on by McLean Taylor Construction Ltd., and Dillon Consulting, will add up to 75 years to the bridge’s lifespan. Pedestrians, cyclists, and eastbound vehicular traffic will be able to use the bridge once the work is finished. It has been closed to vehicular traffic since late 2013.
The wrought iron bridge was designated a heritage structure in 1992 and is one of a small number of bridges like it that are still in use.