Toronto’s island network has long been seen as an untapped resource with its reliance on ferries to access the city parkland, and now a council hopeful is proposing bridging the gap — with a pedestrian bridge.
Spadina-Fort York city council candidate April Engelberg is pitching a lift bridge to connect the city’s Port Lands with the eastern edge of Ward’s Island. The lift bridge, similar to one in Manchester, England, would raise to allow cargo ships into the harbour, while providing regular access to the island for pedestrians and cyclists, said Engelberg.
Toronto’s islands are part of the ward she’s campaigning to win and aside from the few who live on the island, Engelberg said the majority of those in her ward are without adequate green space.
“Ninety-five per cent of our ward in Spadina-Fort York, myself included, doesn’t have a backyard,” she said. “We’re mostly condo dwellers, and this is our largest public park by a landslide. It’s over 20 times the size of Trinity Bellwoods Park.”
Engelberg said the area she’s proposing for the bridge would only be about a 15-minute bike ride from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal. The bridge, she thinks — which her campaign estimates would cost about $10-15 million — would be more practical and cost-effective than the proposed rail deck park which has been mired in complications.
The timing for the project, she added, was also prime.
“Given how much redevelopment is already going on around the Port Lands,” said Engelberg “this is the perfect opportunity to move forward with a bridge and I think the federal and provincial governments would collaborate on the bridge.“
The bridge would connect with neighbouring Toronto-Danforth and its longtime city councillor, Paula Fletcher, who is also running for re-election, told Global News it could be complicated to get all three levels of government in agreement for the project.
“Elections are always about ideas and new and fresh ideas, so we have to test and see if that’s even a possibility,” said Fletcher.
Toronto Mayor John Tory, who said he’s still holding out hope that a rail deck park could become a reality, said he’s in favour of exploring the concept of a bridge. But Tory, who is running for a third term, said he wouldn’t support any plans that included allowing cars or other vehicles to use it.
“You’d have to look at it in a way that’s sensitive to all the users of the island, including those who are resident there. To me it’s an idea worth looking at,” Tory said.