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Brushing up the awareness: Crossroads Bridge project keeps active corridor top of mind

Ruth DeSantis just wanted to raise awareness of mobility problems along the 8 Avenue NE bridge over Deerfoot Trail.

In fact, communities in north and east Calgary want those infrastructure improvements to make the next City of Calgary budget cycle.

DeSantis, who lives in the community of Mayland Heights, took on the project during COVID through the Crossroads Community Association. A committee was started, and that group was meeting with city officials on an effort called Unite the Heights.

Unite the Heights is a push for better pedestrian and cycling infrastructure in the Renfrew, Crossroads and Crescent Heights communities of north and northeast Calgary. The group wants a protected bike lane along 8 Avenue NE.

“For us, the most important point is the bridge being rehabilitated to have a wider pathway that facilitates people being able to pass each other, walk across it, no matter what they’re using,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis has three kids. There are trails in the area they like to bike to, but when she’s pulling the chariot with kids in tow, oncoming foot or cycling traffic can’t squeeze by. She’s seen sit-down electric scooter drivers resort to the road instead.

“It’s just no space. It’s less than two metres wide,” she said, also noting that with COVID-19, there’s a desire for social distancing.

DeSantis said she’s been sending 3-1-1 requests to the city for years. It’s something she wants to see changed. So, the Crossroads Community Association provided funds, they got the go-ahead, and they painted the crossing.

“At least we can like make it enjoyable for people while they’re cruising across it and then also highlight how important it is for our community to connect across the Deerfoot to the city,” she said.

They worked with an artist and community members painted the bridge Aug. 15 and 16.

Key piece in the active modes network, the city said

Aparna Krishan, a transportation engineer in the City’s Liveable Streets Division, said they see very high build out of established communities on both sides of Deerfoot Trail in this area.

Improving connectivity in the corridor is a priority.

Krishan said they’re looking and the corridor holistically – from 1 and 2 Street NW, right to McKinnon Drive NE. The bridge is a key piece, Krishan said.  

“Deerfoot Trail, obviously, it poses a huge barrier to all types of movements from east to west,” she said.

Krishan said the city recognizes the bridge isn’t up to snuff. They know it’s narrow. The connections and comfort level of shared street infrastructure aren’t the greatest, she said.

Work on the bridge has to coincide with lifecycle improvements, Krishan said. They’ve consulted with roads and this bridge isn’t due for rehab work in the near future.

Still, they’re going to look at what can be done in the corridor in the short term. That might include curb extensions for pedestrian visibility. It could include wheeling ramps for sidewalks in the area. Eventually, they’ll get to the bridge.

“We’re looking to improve in the long term, but anything we can do like the quick fixes or quick wins, so to speak, would really help holistically,” Krishan said.

They’re aiming for 2023 to 2026, with funds included in the next city budget cycle.

That’s ultimately what DeSantis had hoped for.

Painting the bridge keeps it top of mind for area residents, and would-be politicians.

“I will say that was part of my strategy was to do it during the election cycle, during active campaigning, right, to highlight it and get it on politicians’ radar,” she said.