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A Pedestrian Bridge Under the Gardiner: Creating a Connection That is Also a Place

Jun 16, 2016

A new pedestrian bridge under the Gardiner Expressway.

A new pedestrian bridge under the Gardiner Expressway will not only be a safe way to cross Fort York Boulevard. It also aspires to be a place worth visiting in and of itself.

By Jake Tobin Garrett

Sometimes a connection between two places is simply a way to get from A to B. But sometimes it can be more than that: it can become a place to linger itself. The pedestrian and cycling bridge proposed by Project: Under Gardiner will fit this bill as both connection and place.

The bridge is a crucial piece of infrastructure to help span the gap between two halves of the space under the Gardiner on either side of Fort York Boulevard. This spot is really in the middle of the Under Gardiner site and represents a challenging point that disconnects parts of the future linear public space and trail from each other. 

This map shows the location where Fort York Boulevard crosses the through the Under Gardiner site, dividing the space into two halves.

This map shows the location where Fort York Boulevard crosses the through the Under Gardiner site, dividing the space into two halves.

But the bridge is meant to be more than simply a connection. The design team at PUBLIC WORK has proposed the bridge as a new public space in its own right. While there are questions still about whether the bridge will be suspended from the deck of the Gardiner itself or held up by pillars in the ground, the idea either way is to include an edge of seating along the south side. This seating would take advantage of the bridge’s height and location, allowing people to gaze out at the lawn and buildings of the Fort York National Historic Site – a view that isn’t possible at street level.

This rendering shows the long, curved bench that would run along the south side of the proposed bridge. (Image courtesy of PUBLIC WORK)

This rendering shows the long, curved bench that would run along the south side of the proposed bridge.

In all three of the walking workshops I’ve led for Project: Under Gardiner in the past several weeks, the idea of getting up into the air and taking advantage of the height of the Gardiner was one of the strongest common themes. People want to get up and see the city from a different vantage point—the bridge will allow people to do just that.

It’s also what an Environmental Assessment of the Fort York Boulevard crossing concluded was the safest, most attractive way to cross the street. The curve of the street, the concrete dividers that are there to protect the supporting pillars or “bents” for the Gardiner deck above, the distance from surrounding pedestrian crossings—all these factors had to be considered when evaluating the best way to cross this gap.

Four views of what Fort York Boulevard looks like where it crosses under the Gardiner

Four views of what Fort York Boulevard looks like where it crosses under the Gardiner. Concrete barricades protect the expressways columns and make it impossible for pedestrians to cross at street level.

In addition, the team had to ensure the ramps up to the bridge were barrier-free and accessible for those using mobility devices, and also had to make sure that a bridge could get up to a height that allowed clearance underneath to protect for a possible future LRT line.

Once complete, the bridge will allow pedestrians and cyclists to continue unobstructed across Fort York Boulevard to connect to the trail on the east side of the road through either a switch-back ramp or a set of stairs.

But it will also allow people to sit and hang out. It will become a kind of “gateway” into the space, an announcement to those travelling along Fort York Boulevard that something special is there.

Want to learn more about Project: Under Gardiner? Head over to www.undergardiner.com to find more information.

 

You can also join us for a walking tour of the project coming up on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 6pm. Click here to register for the tour on Eventbrite.

 

 

post contributor

  • Jake Tobin Garrett

    Jake Tobin Garrett is a writer and public space advocate in Toronto. He works as Manager of Policy and Research for Park People.