waterdaleBy Anna Guy

Cities around the world are defined by signature architecture. The CN Tower, Empire State Building, and the Sydney Opera House set the scene and serves as symbols for their city, and even their country.

When Edmonton’s 100-year-old Walterdale Bridge was determined to need replacing, Edmonton’s city council, engineers, and architects took it as an opportunity and a challenge to create an iconic replacement in the tradition of globally recognized structures.

The Symbol of Edmonton

In terms of its function, the new Walterdale Bridge runs across the North Saskatchewan River, connecting the north and south banks with a three-lane bridge with a separated shared-use path on the east side and a cantilevered shared-use pathway that will curve alongside the bridge’s east walkway. Ambitious in scope, the bridge will be a unique fixture in the city’s skyline, with two arches that soar 56 metres into the sky. The logistics are highly technical, but suffice to say, the bridge is an engineering marvel, with over 5000-tonnes of cables and steel held together in giant curvature across the river. The complicated nature of the bridge has caused some delay on the project, which is now proposed to be completed in Fall 2017.

Project of a Lifetime

“It has been one of the highlights of my professional career to have that opportunity to work on this project,” says Dr. Jim Montgomery, Principal at DIALOG Design, the consulting firm on the project. To be part of this really strong interdisciplinary team—comprised of bridge engineers, transportation engineers, architects, landscape architects, environmental consultants, heritage restoration consultants, technical consultants—has been just one of the highlights.”

Most civil bridges in Edmonton are girder bridges, explains Montgomery, with shorter spans and tiers in the water. “So, to span from one river bank to another with an arch bridge is something pretty special, especially when you consider how few arch bridges that have been built in Canada recently.”
The $155-million project will usher in a new vision for the city, one with a revitalization of the River Valley area, and a catalyst of the area for redevelopment at the core. “The notion of connecting the bridge to the shared-use paths in the city, to be a magnet to draw people down to the water was something that we wanted to do,” says Montgomery.

More than a River Crossing

“This is much more than just a river crossing,” adds Ryan Teplitsky, the City’s construction project manager. “This is an inner-city landmark that would shape the concept and idea of what Edmonton stands for.”

Teplitsky says council’s key vision was very definite: to create a signature bridge that would define the skyline in heart of the city. “How do you define a city? How do you know where you are? We wanted to create something that citizens would be proud of and that would be a signature structure that would definite the city skyline.”

The bridge’s height and glory will be on full display on this and future Canada Days, when the city will be putting on a kinetic light show that will coordinate with a massive firework display.

Consultants on the project include ISL Engineering and Land Services Ltd, DIALOG Design (who contributed on bridge design, urban design and construction management), and Buckland & Taylor, the sub consultant to DIALOG for bridge design, who worked collaboratively with the city to bring this vision to life. “The point and the vision was set our early in the project, when the charter was developed,” continues Teplitsky. “From the planning and design process, we wanted to have that vision that it would be a unique structure located in heart of the river valley, that would respect its setting, and create a landmark gateway into downtown.”

Edmonton Pride

Construction in Edmonton is a familiar sight in these past few years. The City has invested $5.5 billion, concentrating on the downtown core. The Royal Alberta Museum, MacEwan University Centre for Arts and Culture, Edmonton Brewery District, and Rogers Place are but a few examples of areas and buildings getting major upgrades in 2017. “Businesses want to be in thriving places,” says Teplitsky. “There is a lot of development in Edmonton, and with billions of dollars of investment, businesses are starting to this landmark piece of infrastructure as another thing that makes people say ‘I’m proud to be in Edmonton’.”