The future of a historic Inverness bridge could be secured for the next quarter of a century if councillors this week approve vital funding for repairs.
The Infirmary Bridge, dating from 1876, is a popular crossing over the River Ness between Ness Walk and Ness Bank.
Concerns were raised over the future of the Category B listed structure last year due to its deteriorating condition and the £550,000 needed for its repair.
It supports an average of 40,000 pedestrian crossings a month, reaching 68,000 in peak times.
But, at present, it is closed during major events at areas like Bught Park because it cannot take large numbers of people at the same time.
Highland Council’s economy and infrastructure committee will discuss on Wednesday a recommendation to allocate the money for repairs from a £7.4 million strategic roads scheme fund.
A report to the meeting warns that, due to its condition, it is likely the bridge will be closed within five years if no work is carried out. Monthly assessments are undertaken and it could be shut immediately if concerns arose.
The recommended repairs will extend the suspension bridge’s life by 20-25 years. Strengthening works have been ruled out as they would still be insufficient to remove the crowd loading restrictions.
A replacement has also been discounted due the cost of around £4 million and the bridge’s listed status.
Repairs programmed for next year
The council will examine a range of funding opportunities for the project which could reduce the capital allocation needed.
Construction would be programmed in summer-autumn next year and will have to be coordinated with a time of year that will not affect the river’s salmon.
Local councillor and former Inverness Provost Alex Graham said the move means there is “real hopes of solid progress” on saving the landmark.
He said: “The bridge is very heavily used. A monthly average of 40,000 pedestrian and 7,000 cyclist movements are made across the bridge.
“The footbridge is a vital part of our city’s active travel network as well as a fantastic part of the Inverness landscape.”
He said he and other Inverness West ward colleagues are concerned about the Infirmary Bridge’s future and are anxious for repairs to be carried out.
Bridge’s life would be extended by 20-25 years
He added: “So it was encouraging to see that a recommendation to allocate £550,000 for repairs to the bridges has been put forward to the council’s economy and infrastructure committee this week.”
“Bridge repairs are complicated. Various consents are required and wildlife, especially fish, have be protected. It will be 2022 before the work is completed, but once done the bridge’s life will be extended for a further 20-25 years.
“It’s great that this progress has been made, and I hope the committee will approve this recommendation and help to safeguard this vital part of our travel network.”
The council-owned Infirmary Bridge, which crosses the river at the Royal Northern Infirmary, is in the Inverness Riverside Conservation Area. The structure forms part of the Inverness City Active Travel Network.
Substantial repairs were undertaken in 1977 and 1994 by the predecessor authority Highland Regional Council.