Calgary NE pedestrian bridge receives glow-up, city deems it unsafe weeks later

A busy pedestrian overpass in the city’s northeast has been shuttered and deemed unsafe due to aging, just weeks after it got a $23,000 art mural.

The 16 Avenue overpass in the Crossroads community was painted with bright, intricate images of birds, which was initiated by the Crossroads Community Association (CCA) in 2019, as part of the city’s “This is my neighbourhood” program.

Since then, birds have been added to the staircase rails, along with murals commissioned for the pillars by local artist Doug Driediger, which were finished in the summer of 2023.

Ron O’Shea, president of the Crossroads Community Association, said he didn’t even know about the project until the summer when he received a bill from the city for $2,000 to block traffic.

“Which is when I kind of questioned, ‘what the hell are we paying to block traffic for?'” O’Shea told CityNews.

“And then the project came in front of me and I thought, ‘wow really.’ So the project went through, it got painted and then I saw the signs on the bridge practically a month after.”

He says it’s disappointing to see all the hard work go to waste, and he wishes someone would have pointed out the obvious poor conditions before painting started.

“Well … it’s which department and which hand knew what the other hand was doing is what the problem was,” O’Shea said. “I mean, whatever department knew this didn’t disclose that they had concerns.”

“I can’t see a department in the City of Calgary having known this bridge was becoming derelict and then still allowed the investment of the painting.”

Ward 10 Coun. Andre Chabot says he also didn’t know and feels “terrible,” as part of the approval happened while he was not a councillor.

“I wish I had even known about it to be honest. I wasn’t even made aware of the fact that this work had been undertaken and that this work had been commissioned or that this artist had been commissioned,” he told CityNews.

“Had I known, I probably would have made the time to go there too and to meet with the artist and to see exactly what was being proposed.”

He says the bridge will not be replaced, but the city is hoping to somehow archive the work done by the artist Driediger.

“All I can say is I’m sorry I couldn’t be there. I’m hoping I can help the community realize some better options on a go-forward basis with the great connections,” Chabot said.

While the project did receive funding from the city — it was a community-driven endeavour and not a public art project.

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