CNIB pedestrian bridge restoration under way

[attach]7265[/attach]Spanning Bayview Avenue just north of Kilgour Road, the CNIB Bayview pedestrian bridge might be an iconic sight, but it’s seen better days.

A pair of wire nets fastened underneath it to catch falling debris, for one thing, would not have been there when it was unveiled in 1956.

But now the historic bridge, which saw an average 4,800 crossings a month before it was closed for safety reasons in December 2011, has a new lease on life. A $2.4 million restoration project, set to begin the first week of December, will add an audio-assisted elevator on the west side and new tactile surfaces to enhance navigation by blind pedestrians, along with replacement of the east-side stairs with a ramp that will extend to the building’s front doors.

Gary Baldey, CNIB director of property, said at the Nov. 22 groundbreaking ceremony that the brick and concrete foundations will also be restored, with that work getting under way in January. The project is expected to be completed in the spring.

“This bridge is an important landmark for Toronto,” Don Valley West MP John Carmichael told CNIB president and CEO John Rafferty and others gathered at the organization’s national office.

The federal government is providing $822,000 for the project through its Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund.

“As the member of Parliament for this riding, I consider it my good fortune to have a number of what I call I call ‘centres of excellence,’ and clearly CNIB is one of the major centres of excellence in the riding,” Carmichael remarked.

Councillor John Parker, who said he was “thrilled” to see the pedestrian bridge’s rehabilitation, commented that “it doesn’t hurt to have a prime minister who remembers his roots and has a soft spot for one of the major features in the community where he grew up.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper spent his childhood in Leaside.

A special guest at the event was retired CNIB teacher Florence Carter, a Leaside resident who began working there in 1947.