The 12th Street S.E. Bridge linking Inglewood and the Calgary Zoo, originally designed for horse and buggy transportation when it was built back in 1908, and until recently heavily used by vehicles and pedestrians, is finally being replaced.

Also informally called St. George’s Island Bridge or Zoo Bridge, the steel-span structure has deteriorated over the past century. It was severely impacted by the 2013 flood, when debris rushed down the Bow River slamming into the structure, resulting in a ban of truck traffic. All traffic was banned in November 2016 and the bridge was formally closed to pedestrians on March 29.

Katherine Hikita, project manager of 12th Street S.E. Replacement Project says this bridge wasn’t initially designed to carry heavy-duty trucks and vehicles like the rest of the bridges in Calgary are, which is why it is extremely delicate.

“The new bridge will be better designed for flood resiliency,” explains Hikita. “It will be able to take emergency service vehicles like fire trucks. It will make the connection between the Inglewood and Bridgeland for emergency evacuation in the city.”

Piece-by-piece destruction of the old bridge is underway, according to an article from Metro Calgary.

According to Hikita, access to St. George’s Island may be an issue because Zoo Road and the Baines Bridge, which links the island to the north side of the Bow River and Memorial Drive, are also currently under construction.

“It’s sort of three projects that need to be finished up before the roadways become open to everyone,” she adds.

According to the City of Calgary, the budget for the new 12th Street Bridge is $26 million.

The 12th Street Bridge has a very long and valuable history that many Calgarians might not know about. The city’s main objective before taking it down this spring was to find ways to incorporate historical components in the design of the new bridge to keep the old bridge’s story alive.

An online survey was open to the public for commemoration ideas, and what themes they deem most important to them. The First Nations traditions relevant to the area will also be incorporated in the new design and the city is looking to re-use parts of the old bridge and the landscaping, says Hikita.

“We’ve also got a public artist for the project that’s been meeting with the community and hearing what their feelings and thoughts around the old bridge are. He is working with our design team to contribute to part of that; the landscape, the area and the history of that site.”

Brandon Vickerd is the creative mind behind commemorating the memory of the 12th Street Bridge.

“So we do have money in our contract to reclaim parts of the old bridge,” says Hikita. “It is coated in lead paint which we have to remove, which is part of the difficulty in reusing it, but we have the budget to handle some of that.”

Due to damages caused by the flood, the time for dismantling the current bridge will be taken into consideration. Since flood season is approaching, removing that risk from the project is extremely important, says Hikita.

“We’ll be prepping it for removal in April and then removing it from the site in May.”

Old 12th St. S.E Bridge before take-down. Photo by Kiah Lucero

As the Zoo Road is closed to the public because of construction, there is an alternate route only for zoo employees. The closure of the Zoo Road and now the closure of the 12th Street Bridge makes it difficult for pedestrians or the general public to get around that area. Closure of the former bridge shut down a link between 9th Avenue through St. George Island to Memorial Drive N.E.

According to the City of Calgary’s website, the final landscaping design of the replaced bridge will be built primarily based on public feedback, followed by factors such as safety of people using the park space, parks maintenance, budget and schedule, flood resiliency and accessibility. More details about future alternative routes, the project scope and when the bridge will open, are now available on their website as well. 

The editor for this story is Paul Rodgers – 

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