By Charlie Senack
The Jackie Holzman Bridge has finally opened in Kitchissippi Ward, honouring the former mayor who dedicated most of her life to the city.
On Sept. 4, the bridge formerly known as the Harmer Avenue pedestrian crossing opened, connecting the communities of Wellington West and Civic Hospital by foot. The former bridge closed two years ago to be replaced after aging infrastructure became too much to repair.
Kitchissippi Ward Coun. Jeff Leiper said he’s very pleased to see the new bridge fully built, giving his kudos to the city for recognizing that this important community project couldn’t be put off.
“What I really appreciate in this whole thing is that there was no question on replacing the bridge,” Leiper said. “It was always assumed that we would replace this aging piece of infrastructure and not just let the residents find another way to get around because it really does play an important role in the community.”
Leiper said the former bridge, built in the late 1950s or early 1960s, was showing its age.
During his two terms on council, the bridge had to undergo netting repairs to ensure anything falling off the bridge wouldn’t fall and hit cars on the Queensway below.
The bridge spans Highway 17, between Harmer Avenue South and Harmer Avenue North. When the city decided to replace the bridge, they decided to take it a step up from the former concrete structure with a chain link fence.
“The new bridge provides a calm, attractive, pleasant way to get back and forth between the Civic Hospital and Wellington Village,” Leiper said.
The new $13.5 million bridge includes an enclosed roof, glass panels and bright lighting. Leiper said when it was being built, engineers had some difficulties bringing its accessibility standards up to modern-day code.
Ramps had to be changed and infrastructure on the Queensway, such as electrical and pipes, had to be relocated. Leiper said you can feel the significant improvements as you walk over the newly built bridge.
“One of the things you notice as you walk over the bridge, compared to the previous one which was open to the air, is it’s very quiet,” he said, adding the new bridge has a counter to track data on how many people are cycling and walking over it.
“You can have a pleasant conversation with someone when you are standing over the Queensway,” Leiper added. “It is lit well which is critical to safety; the ramps are very well-lit and it feels safer and less isolated compared to the old one.”
In January, when Mayor Jim Watson gave his State of the City Address, he announced he would be bringing forward a motion to rename the bridge after former Ottawa Mayor Jackie Holzman. The motion was passed unanimously in July.
Holzman served as a city councillor in Richmond Ward (now known as Bay Ward) from 1982 to 1991, when she was elected as the city’s third female mayor, but the first female Jewish mayor. She gave up politics in 1991 but has been active in the community ever since.
Holzman later became the chair of the Ottawa Congress Centre and afterward served as chair of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. In 2007, she was appointed to the board of the National Capital Commission where she served for a number of years.
Now at the age of 85, Holzman is still very active in the Ottawa community, religiously involved with her local Kiwanis Club. She’s also actively involved in breast cancer awareness and is an advocate for persons with disabilities.
“Jackie has almost been as busy post-mayor as to when she was mayor,” joked Mayor Watson. “She has stayed very involved in the community. She and I are part of the same Kiwanis Club — she is much more active than I am due to time — but she’s very involved in Kiwanis which raises money for good causes.”
“She put her service in Ottawa,” echoed Leiper. “She was not only mayor, but she put a lot of work into volunteering in various capacities to help better us as a city.”
On Sept. 10, a small ceremony with about 100 people — including four generations of Holzman’s family — took place outside of the bridge to celebrate and recognize the name change.
Holzman, now a resident of Kitchissippi Ward, says she was humbled and grateful to have a bridge named after her.
“This bridge brings together two vibrant communities: The Civic Hospital and the Wellington communities,” the former Ottawa mayor said. “It makes them even stronger together.”
Holzman says the bridge has already been used by her two great-grandsons who find it “cool” that their great-grandmother has a bridge named after her.
She also made reference to famous bridges in songs and films, noting it’s “particularly sweet” this one is meant for only bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
“My two grandsons [have] already scootered and biked across it, the bridge that their dad used to walk over every day on his way to Fisher ‘Ball of Confusion’ Park High School,” Holzman said in her remarks. “Continue building bridges — May all those who cross over remember that they are not alone. There are two vibrant communities supporting them.”