The extensive damage done to glass panels on the Peace Bridge over the weekend far exceeds the City of Calgary’s bridge maintenance funding, and now the city is seeking additional funding to cover that gap.
The City of Calgary is also looking to see if that cost can be recouped from the perpetrator of the vandalism when they are caught.
“We will be pressing charges,” said City of Calgary roads director, Troy McLeod.
In the early morning of Sunday, July 24, according to the Calgary Police Service, an individual smashed a significant number of the glass panels along the handrail of the the Peace Bridge.
Police are looking for Calgarians to help them identify the suspect, described by police as being between the ages of 50 to 60 years of age, 5’6″ to 5’9″ in height, slim in build, and having a full moustache. The man was last seen wearing a dark-coloured baseball cap, and a blue sweater with stripes on the shoulders.
The same suspect is believed to have damaged a panel on the bridge on June 18, 2022.
Hundreds of thousands in damages
About 75 per cent of the panels on the bridge were damaged by the suspect, said McLeod.
“On average, about two panels are damaged a year for the handrail, but this time, this one is significant,” said McLeod.
“It’s very disappointing for us to see happen even though we’ve been taking a number of steps to try and mitigate that.”
The costs to repair the glass are considerable, with replacement of a single panel of glass in excess of $10,000. The cost to repair the panels is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“It would cost about $12,000 to replace a panel, and because it’s a structural element, there’s significant labour required,” said McLeod.
Livewire Calgary counted that there were 71 smashed panels on the Peace Bridge, on Sunday. An estimate, based on that count, and $12,000 per panel, brings that cost to approximately $850,000.
Glass remains material of choice for Ward 7 Councillor
Ward 7 Councillor Terry Wong said he’s not for changing the panels from glass to a polycarbonate material, as that change could take away from the artistic significance of the bridge.
“Glass is certainly the idea of it, it’s clear and doesn’t scratch”, said Coun. Wong.
“Going to a polycarbonate base is much more durable, like 20 times stronger, but it does scratch and will color, therefore it takes away from the aesthetics. We just need to take a look at the combination that provides us the safety, the quality, the efficiency and cost,” he said.
According to McLeod, the decision in which material will be used for the bridge is yet to be decided, but a decision could come at the end of this summer.
McLeod said because these types of panels cost a significant amount of money to be replaced, the current funding for bridge maintenance is not enough, and further funding is needed.
“We would have to seek funding for additional repairs on this bridge for that work,” he said.
Additional steps needed to secure the bridge
According to McLeod the city has taken a number of steps to prevent vandalism at the Peace Bridge, including CCTV cameras.
“There are regular security patrols that the city does on the bridge 24/7,” said McLeod.
“We’ve also launched a campaign recently around vandalism and having citizens reporting vandalism. We’re doing our best to have the public help us and call when they see something,” he said.
On July 1, the City of Calgary took an artistic approach to curbing vandalism at the Peace Bridge through a creative campaign using stylistically damaged art to reduce intentional damage to the bridge.
According to Coun. Wong, the level of surveillance needs to be heightened, whether through automated techniques or stepped up patrols to help prevent incidents like this from happening in the future.
“The Peace Bridge is an iconic attraction, a destination for both Calgarians and visitors, and we don’t want to lose that,” said Coun. Wong.
“Therefore, we need to heighten up our levels of responsibility as well as security to ensure that our assets are protected.”
Calgarians with information on the Peace Bridge vandalism are asked to call police at 403-266-1234.