News / Edmonton

Recovering history: Edmonton set to renew Mill Creek Ravine pedestrian bridges

The old railroad bridges will maintain historic vibe

The City of Edmonton is preserving old railway bridges which have been converted into use for pedestrians.

Kevin Tuong / For Metro

The City of Edmonton is preserving old railway bridges which have been converted into use for pedestrians.

City crews are getting set to repair what historian Shirley Lowe calls some of Edmonton’s last-standing historical artifacts.

“This is time to recover that story,” Lowe said on Wednesday, referring to the historic bridges in the Mill Creek Ravine. Some were once used by trains, before being converted in the 1970s into much-loved pedestrian paths.

The city put out a call for bids from contractors this week, as they get ready to repair the five timber walkways starting later this summer. According to a recent city report, the three former railroad bridges will be rehabilitated with an eye to maintaining their historic look. Two other bridges aren't historic, and will be replaced.

The three old trestle bridges, located by the Argyll Velodrome between the communities of Avonmore and Ritchie, are over 115 years old, and in dire need of repair, the city says.  

A map that shows where the bridges are located.

Metro Graphic

A map that shows where the bridges are located.

Lowe said the connectors were vital in Edmonton’s early days, as residents of Old Strathcona, then an independent community, would take the train to work in the old coalmines north of the river. The train also carried materials between the two communities.

“People would be deposited at the bottom of McDougall Hill Road, and they would just climb up,” she explained. “There were also lumber yards and brick yards — all kinds of things that built the city.”

When planners first proposed the rehabilitation idea a year ago, a survey showed 90 per cent of residents wanted to preserve the historic vibe of the bridges.

Lowe said such findings show Edmontonians truly care about the city’s history.

“This is a significant event in our history. They are not in anyone’s way and they have a good story to tell,” she said. “They really don’t build those trestles anymore, so this is just share the stories behind it.”

Another photo of one of the bridges.

Kevin Tuong / For Metro

Another photo of one of the bridges.

Crews are expected to complete the replacements and rehabilitation by October 2018. Other work includes removing piers to improve water flow and digging out contaminated soil. The project is expected to cost $9.5 million.

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