Monday, May 14, 2012

Somerset Street Reconstruction Part 14: Bridge railings

Just as the work is underway to put the finishing touches on the reconstruction of Somerset Street west from Booth to Preston to the O-Train bridge, this 15-part series documenting that reconstruction is nearing an end. After going over the roadway and sidewalk reconstruction and the O-Train pathway, we finished off Part 13 with a look at the temporary boardwalk cantilevered over the side of the Somerset bridge while the O-Train pathway was being built (covered in Part 12).

In this second-to-last post in the series, I'll tell you all about the railings on this bridge/viaduct, as shown here at Takaki Automotive, 47 Breezehill:

While I wouldn't go so far as to claim they deserve official heritage status, the railings do have some history to them. They formed the backdrop of a couple scenes in the Rolling Stone's music video for Streets of Love, filmed in Ottawa. The bridge is around 1:15 to 1:40. Interspersed in the video with scenes shot live at Zaphod's are other Centretown landmarks such as the former Stinson & Son at 435 Gladstone (1:45 and 2:11) and Domestic Foods, the corner store just down the block from me, at Gladstone and Percy (1:50 to 1:57):

The railing consists of four continuous oval-shaped bands spanning the bridge, with the top span smaller than the other three.

They're mounted on arched brackets with the connecting bolts alternating sides on the brackets. The streetlights are mounted on round protrusions on the outside of the platform, though this one was gone years ago.

The ends of the railing are protected by, though not attached to, large concrete blocks. These blocks are also used where there is a gap in the railing, such as at Takaki in the photo above. Here, next to Musca, a little metal fence bridges the gap between this concrete block and the building:

The railing's age itself creates a bit of controversy. The City's engineers like to work with standard railing designs which have been crash-tested and rated, but this railing predates such standardization. Actually surviving crashes (not to mention the huge concrete planters with trees in them adding further protection from stray cars and trucks) doesn't qualify it for equivalency, it is merely grandfathered.

But to connect the O-Train pathway to Somerset, we'd have to remove a section of the railing to create a new gap. That, so the engineers claimed, would nullify the grandfathering and we'd have to replace the whole thing. So imagine the surprise and frustration when we saw that segments of railing were removed for the temporary boardwalk:

Eric Darwin shared his own frustrated rant about this discussion in this post on his blog:

I cannot convince you, gentle reader, because you would never believe me, how many hours of design committee meetings were spent on that %*^!! railing. It can’t be changed or modified, the City claimed, in dismissing what we wanted. It would be too expensive to change. Then, ah ha! almost a million buck budget line appears to install a new railing, because the City decides it wants it. Hours are spent consulting on the picket design, the aesthetics, whether to paint it black or leave it galvanized… only to find at the last minute that the budget was being cut, and the new railing is out, and old one back. And the things we wanted, but couldn’t get because the railing couldn’t be modified … well, they seem to be back on track to being installed, using the old railing.
Ironically, the railing that would have been installed in this one's place would have been very similar to the one on Heron Road featured in this article about children being able to easily climb up it.

Luckily for our collective sanity, the existing railing remained, mostly untouched, except for a few specks of concrete from the pouring of the new sidewalks.

As mentioned in Part 12, this isn't so much "a bridge" but a viaduct and a series of bridges (and now a tunnel too). In addition to the bridge over the O-Train tracks in the far end of this photo, there used to be a second bridge under Somerset a bit east of that. This is now bricked off with the large blocks of a lighter colour behind the ramp up to City Centre:

This is confirmed by a closeup of a 1926 map showing two separate tracks running under Somerset Street:

Which would have been this set of tracks shown in a Gréber Report photo, looking North off the Somerset Street bridge. The tracks under the O-Train bridge were shown in a similar shot in Part 11 (note the Wellington Street bridge in the background for comparison)

There is also another bridge, running under what used to be called Champagne Avenue [North] but was renamed City Centre Avenue in 2005 as part of the post-amalgamation audit of duplicate street names.

Interestingly, the North and the South parts of Champagne Avenue (the latter of which in Hintonburg has kept the name) were both given the name despite never being contiguous, not even when they were laid out in the 1870s (shown here as "First Ave"):

Legally, the section under this bridge is part of the City's right-of-way for Champagne Avenue, which extends all the way south to Gladstone. But practically, it is an access route for 1010 Somerset and the gigantic warehouse also known as the Oak Street Complex, a Federal building that itself extends from Somerset to Gladstone. Many people cut through the entryway at 1010 Somerset, and many more did so when the bridge was closed, leading to the installation of a series of speed bumps:

The expansion joints for this little bridge were replaced during the Somerset rehabilitation. They follow the profile of the road and sidewalk:

The rebar of the sidewalk was exposed and lifted to allow new conduits to be laid for the utilities directly underneath, slipping under the new expansion joints, which follow the much wider profile of the new sidewalk. 989 Somerset, the antique store, is also in view:

It's a tricky business to install expansion joints, which I hadn't realized until I saw it. The joints are set into concrete, but until the concrete is poured, they're essentially floating. There was a little jig to ensure they were aligned properly.

Finally, the concrete is poured, the asphalt is set, and the lane and bicycle markings are down. The section over the bridge is finished—railings and all!

All that's left is the decorations, such as the lamp designs, street furniture, and public art.

And all of those will be covered in the series finale, Part 15!

1 comment:

  1. Can anyone ID the storefronts (looks like the ground floor of an apartment building) that appear at 2:10 in the Streets of Love video? It looks like the Bell Street (Fairview) Towers but I am not sure.