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Craigflower students to get crossing

Mar 15 2012

A deal has been reached for a pedestrian crossing to allow students to get to school while the Craigflower Bridge is being rebuilt, officials say.

"There's a 721-square-metre right of way that [the municipalities] would like us to grant, and what we would be getting is at least a temporary footbridge for egress to and from the school - at least during the school months," said Greater Victoria School District chairwoman Peg Orcherton.

While View Royal and Saanich, the municipalities building the bridge, have agreed to provide pedestrian access for Craigflower Elementary students during the school year, that doesn't mean they will build a dedicated pedestrian crossing, Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said.

"We have not agreed to a temporary bridge. What we have agreed to is we will get the youngsters across when school's in," he said.

That might mean having the contractor work on a schedule where students can be escorted across the site at five-, 10-or 15-minute intervals, Leonard said.

"What staff believe is logistically possible is to leave part of the bridge up while they are building the new one. Then, when they've got the new one up, it wouldn't be open to traffic but it would be open to pedestrians while they take down the rest of the old one," he said.

"But obviously you need to control that, because you can't have youngsters walking around a construction site."

The $10.7-million bridge replacement is scheduled to begin in June, closing the bridge for six months. The municipalities had been looking at options ranging from ferries to busing to a temporary bridge to transfer students over the Gorge Waterway while trying to keep construction costs down.

A standalone pedestrian bridge has been estimated to cost $250,000 - squeezing an already-tight budget. Busing might be done for as little as $20,000. But a pedestrian crossing was overwhelmingly favoured by the public, including parents of students at the school.

With 125 students - 75 per cent of Craigflower's student population - coming from the Songhees First Nation on the opposite side of the bridge, busing wasn't a viable option, Orcherton said.

"That would take a 45-minute trip. Then there's [a question of] how many trips do you do because we want to get the stragglers or what have you. We wanted more direct access," she said.

Should the construction go ahead as scheduled, there would be no requirement for the contractor to provide pedestrian access in July and August, when school is out, Leonard said.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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