Why is the City of Kitchener preventing residents from walking or cycling across the Margaret Avenue bridge if railway companies consider it safe enough for trains to travel under it?
Quite properly the city acted quickly to close the bridge when it confirmed there was a risk of collapse. According to media reports, both the city and the railways are confident that though that the risk of collapse has been significantly reduced by removing heavy vehicles from crossing.
So why block pedestrians and cyclists? Surely their use doesn’t increase the chance of collapse.
Margaret Avenue is a major street that connects the North Ward and Central Frederick neighbourhoods. Given that Ahrens Street has been blocked at the railway tracks (I’m still not sure why) and that construction on widening Weber Street is in full swing, the loss of Margaret Avenue has a noticeable impact. Access to the main branch of the library and the Centre and the Square are two noticeable services affected. Breithaupt Centre and Park are affected the other direction. All of which incidentally are also city services.
Blocking cars and trucks is prudent as the wear and tear advances deterioration of the bridge. Their use must also be addressed quickly for similar reasons but folks understand the risk is too great to allow them in the short term. Hopefully, though the city is looking at the same rapid bridge replacement technology that allowed for a bridge over the 401 (and other provincial highways) to be replaced within 24 hours.
But let’s open the Margaret Avenue bridge to pedestrians and cyclists. It’s safe enough. That’s based upon what I think. It’s based upon facts shared by city staff in a recent article in the Kitchener Post.
Here are the facts:
- an engineer is inspecting the bridge 3 times a week
- similar bridge in Laval showed signs of distress 10 days in advance of collapse
- risk of an imminent collapse does not mean within 5 seconds
So if a major risk factor has been eliminated, the city is inspecting the bridge 3 times a week and signs of distress would show well in advance of a collapse (and aren’t present now), let’s open the bridge to pedestrians and cyclists. If signs of distress are found, then let’s block it to all types of traffic.
Continuing to block the bridge to pedestrians and cyclists appears to be an over reaction to a remote risk of a lawsuit rather than a pragmatic solution that takes into account the needs of people.
People are crossing the bridge already. Let’s make it easier for them and others who could benefit from removing barriers across the bridge’s sidewalks.