Does Edmonton’s High Level Bridge still have life in her?

Click to play video: 'How might the High Level Bridge play a new role in Edmonton’s public transit system?' How might the High Level Bridge play a new role in Edmonton’s public transit system?
WATCH ABOVE: Streetcars already cross Edmonton's High Level Bridge, providing a direct connection to two major areas in the city. So should the service become part of the transit system? Vinesh Pratap filed this report on Aug. 15, 2018 – Aug 15, 2018

Talk of where else to run an LRT line, besides Whyte Avenue, has got Edmonton city planners rethinking what to do with the iconic High Level Bridge.

A 2009 transit plan will be revisited over the next couple of years, and a whole bunch of options are being reopened.

On Tuesday, city councillors on the urban planning committee appeared ready to abandon a portion of an LRT plan that tentatively had what was being called the Central Circulator running down Whyte Avenue and through downtown. What was murky was how would both ends of the loop get closed by going across the river?

READ MORE: Does Whyte Avenue or 76 Avenue make more sense for southern LRT corridor?

Not that long ago, the concept of using the High Level Bridge was dismissed because of the bridge’s age and its historic designation from the province. It was considered too fragile for the extra weight of a train.

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Ears among the councillors perked up when a second examination of possibilities was raised.

“Do we strengthen it? Do we basically sustain its historical character and limit the amount of investment that we put into it?” Jason Maliefste, the branch manager for infrastructure planning and design for the city, asked the committee.

“Do we accommodate bikes? Do those bike exist on the main floor in terms of widening where the existing corridor is? Or do we move them to the top, and how does that integrate with other plans?”

READ MORE: Edmonton hires design engineer to increase use of High Level Bridge

“This part strains the imagination a little bit,” Mayor Don Iveson told the meeting, “but if that’s the next phase of work, then I’m actually quite curious to see what the options are.”

While city planners want to cover all of their bases, even if final work is decades away, city councillors wanted to have a plan B for a Whyte Avenue train, just in case. Their thinking is to go further west, onto the University of of Alberta campus — something the current design doesn’t call for.

“A lot of the conversations saw it, that it’s better to focus on ending at the University Station and then worry about the other pieces afterwards, because that’s where you’re going to want to connect people,” Councillor Andrew Knack told reporters. “You need that transfer point. If you’re five blocks away from the University LRT station with this other line, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense.”

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“That may be harder to do than it sounds,” the mayor said.

“To me the most important takeaway is there will be some type of mass transit that will ultimately run down Whyte Avenue, with the idea of connecting the Valley Line southeast to the existing Capital (main) Line, and they’ll use Whyte Avenue as that corridor,” Knack said. “What that looks like, goodness there’s years worth of discussion still on this.”

To prove his point, Knack said the Valley Line to the west and Lewis Estates has been talked about for 11 years and they still don’t have shovels in the ground.

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