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Blackfriars Bridge to reopen to eastbound traffic on Friday: city officials

Blackfriars Bridge in London, Ont., in early November 2021. Matthew Trevithick

London’s historic Blackfriars Bridge will officially reopen to vehicular traffic later this week after being closed to all but cyclists and pedestrians for more than a year and a half, city officials said Monday.

The bridge was closed in April of 2020 to vehicular traffic to encourage social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bridge is scheduled to reopen to vehicles heading eastbound into the downtown core on Friday.

The reopening of the bridge comes as the city conducts a study to evaluate its long-term usage, including traffic analysis and public engagement. The study is required under the environmental assessment process relating to the bridge’s year-long, multi-million-dollar restoration in 2017 and 2018, the city said.

Read more: Blackfriars Bridge to reopen to vehicular traffic as London city council awaits study

City officials said the bridge was being reopened in response to a decline in local COVID-19 cases, high vaccination rates, loosening pandemic restrictions, and a return to more normal levels of activity on the city’s active transportation network. The network saw a significant jump in usage when the pandemic began as more people walked and biked to avoid sharing vehicles and using public transit.

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The city had planned to reopen the bridge to traffic earlier this month, but members of the community petitioned politicians to keep the bridge closed, arguing it had flourished during the pandemic as a popular river-crossing for area residents and those using the Thames Valley Parkway.

An online petition calling on the city to keep the bridge closed garnered more than 1,000 signatures. The matter was brought forward during a meeting of the civic works committee by chair and Ward 12 Coun. Elizabeth Peloza.

Although the committee endorsed a motion from Peloza to keep the bridge closed as the usage study was conducted, council chose to go a different route when it met last week. Peloza’s motion failed to garner enough support, and instead the vote went 8-5 in favour of a referral from newly-minted Ward 13 Coun. John Fyfe-Millar to reopen the bridge.

Fyfe-Millar explained he sought to follow the bridge’s original plans — to remain open to traffic, if not for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more: Petition calls for Blackfriars Bridge to remain closed to vehicular traffic

A final decision about traffic on Blackfriars Bridge will come after the long-term study, which is expected to be launched in the coming weeks and wrap up in 2023, according to city staff. Those interested in participating can find more information on the city’s website.

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The bridge’s closure last year was the second time vehicles had been barred from using the crossing in less than 10 years. Due to structural concerns, pedestrians and cyclists were the only ones allowed to use the bridge from 2013 until late 2017 when it was removed for restoration.

The wrought iron bridge, erected in 1875, was designated a heritage structure in 1992 and is one of a small number of bridges like it still in active use. In 2016, the bridge was recognized as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering.

—With files from Andrew Graham and Jake Jeffrey

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