Saanich and Esquimalt are expanding pedestrian infrastructure on the Gorge Bridge which connects the two municipalities.
An expanded walkway is being added to the Gorge Bridge, which crosses the Gorge Waterway at Tillicum Road, with work set to take place on March 26. In the past, Saanich has been in charge of maintenance on the bridge and the Township of Esquimalt has contributed funds.
The new walkway will use the southbound curb lane and will feature protective concrete barriers. The decision to install new pedestrian infrastructure came about because the existing sidewalks on the bridge were deemed too narrow.
In 2020, the southbound curb lane was closed to traffic for the CRD wastewater treatment project. Pedestrians used the closed lane for several months and when it was reopened to vehicles, both Saanich and Esquimalt received messages from residents asking that the lane be permanently closed to traffic. In response, after engineering staff determined that the change would have minimal traffic impacts but would ensure a safe connection to both sides of the bridge for pedestrians, the municipalities decided to make the lane a permanent walkway.
The project will create a safe walkway over the bridge that will connect to the very popular pedestrian loop route around the Gorge inlet which passes through both municipalities, noted Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, adding that it’s a route she often walks.
“This addition across the bridge just makes it so much safer,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes is pleased to be working with Desjardins and emphasized the importance of ensuring that the active transportation infrastructure in the district connects to that of neighbouring municipalities.
“The addition of this permanent pedestrian facility will both add to our growing (active transportation) networks and safely expand the link between our two communities,” he said, adding that fixing the missing links will help avoid a patchwork of walkways. The goal is for residents of all ages to feel safe travelling on foot or on wheels.
Construction will take place overnight on March 26 in order to minimize traffic impacts and is expected to be completed in one day. While crews work, the bridge will be reduced to a single lane with alternating directions and traffic control will guide drivers through. Transit and emergency vehicles will be prioritized.