Pedestrian bridge over 14 Street in northwest Calgary changing to at-grade crossing

While drivers might not notice the details, the pedestrian bridge spanning 14 Street at 7 Avenue Northwest in Calgary is showing its age.

“The bridge is in really bad shape,” Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell said Monday. “It’s at the end of its life cycle and it needs to be removed.”

“And the question is what do we replace it with?”

The bridge will be replaced with an at-grade crossing. (According to Transportation Alberta, an at-grade rail crossing “is where a road passes across a line of railway.”)

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While pedestrian overpasses allow traffic to move uninterrupted, Farrell said a street-level crossing can also be safe and make the neighbourhood more walkable.

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“What can we do to ensure that the road is safe so that people can cross and feel comfortable crossing at grade, is something that we’ll explore.”

Farrell said the city is likely to put in full signals at 7 Avenue Northwest and may put in other measures to control traffic as it streams toward downtown.

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Yoga instructor Jenelle Kitto said the type of street crossing needs to account for the amount and speed of traffic along the north-south corridor.

“I feel like with the amount of traffic here and the fact that people are so oblivious to the new (flashing light) crossings, I don’t know that I would feel safer,” Kitto told Global News.

“I know in lots of areas, people don’t stop for those or don’t notice them. They’re just cruising.”

But Farrell describes the bridge as a “vital link” for children to get to and from Hillhurst School, which sits on the east side of 14 Street.

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“14 Street, as we know, is a pretty fast street, and it’s at the bottom of the hill. So how do we ensure that whatever we replace the bridge with, it’s safe for kids to cross?” Farrell said.

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One suggestion is to replace the existing pedestrian bridge with a new one would cost about $6 million. The space needed for an up-to-code overpass is another challenge.

“There’s not a lot of room in that immediate area, and bridges we build today are accessible,” Farrell said. “They need those long, loopy ramps, and that takes up a fair amount of space.”

Farrell also said that a possible site north of 7 Avenue Northwest would necessitate a land purchase.

Work to remove the pedestrian overpass is expected to begin this summer.

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