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Bridge upgrade, Indigenous consult, park redo are in City of Red Deer’s capital plan for 2024

The former CPR bridge will close this summer for extensive repairs
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Millions of dollars are needed to renovate the former CP Rail pedestrian bridge in Red Deer. Construction will begin this summer. (Advocate file photo)

The City of Red Deer’s biggest capital project of 2024 is the start of a major overhaul on the former CPR pedestrian bridge.

A re-design of downtown’s Centennial Park and consultations for an new Indigenous Cultures Centre are also in the plans — but the main construction project for this year will be the $19.7 million upgrade of the 116-year-old pedestrian bridge over the Red Deer River.

“We are pretty close to finishing the design work and the project will be going to tender in March or April,” said Lee Birn, the city’s infrastructure management superintendent.

Red Deer’s foot bridge will close this summer for a major structural upgrade. This will involve the replacement of its foundations, decking and painting and repairing some of the metal supports. Birn expects this restoration to be ongoing until mid-2026.

The federal government provided $11.1 million of the needed funding for the project.

Construction on Centennial Park Plaza is not expected until 2025. But parks superintendent John Eastwood said getting design work firmed up for the much delayed re-development project is in the City of Red Deer’s plans for 2024.

The wading pool in the downtown park, just south of McDonald’s, was closed in 2015. A park redevelopment plan was done in 2017, but it was then shelved for financial and pandemic reasons.

Since much has changed in Red Deer and in Canada in the last six years — including greater problems with homelessness and opioid abuse — the 2017 plan needs to be run through a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design assessment, added Eastwood.

The results will determine whether to carry on with the 2017 design plan — which would include replacing the wading pool with another type of water feature, adding more seating and picnic areas — or go back to the drawing board and start a new public engagement process.

Eastwood wants to get Centennial Park redeveloped and its downtown washroom reopened, since this part of Alexander Way is a key connector between the downtown, Capstone and Rail Lands.

In 2024, about $206,000 is in the budget for the park’s redesign. Eastwood estimates $800,000 to $1 million will be needed in 2025 to begin construction.

Planning for a regional Indigenous Cultures Centre is also supposed to get underway in 2024, starting with consultation with local groups.

Michelle Andrews, the city’s corporate controller, said $150,000 for planning is in the budget for this year.

In 2022, council was told getting the centre’s construction off the ground would require a funding commitment from the city of $4.5 million in 2025. Council heard this wouldn’t be enough for the entire project but would be a good starting point from which to apply for matching government grants.

City Manager Tara Lodewyk had stated this is an important project, a way to act on advancing Truth and Reconciliation.