NCC lays out design principles for Alexandra Bridge replacement, to be complete in 2032

The Alexandra Bridge connects Ottawa and Gatineau over the Ottawa River.

The National Capital Commission has approved its design philosophy for the eventual replacement of the 120-year-old Alexandra Bridge over the Ottawa River.

In a meeting Wednesday, the NCC's board of directors approved the planning and design principles for the future bridge, one of the first of many steps in a 12-year-long process.

"Developed in collaboration with the project lead, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), the principles provide guidance in the areas of planning, heritage protection, urban design and sustainability," the NCC said in a release. "They will enable a future designer to develop an iconic proposal reflective of the bridge’s location and significance, while implementing innovative practices to meet key goals such as low environmental impact."

The NCC says six principles will help guide design choices:

  • mobility and continuity of the urban fabric;
  • public space and civic experiences;
  • structure, height, proportions and lighting;
  • preservation of views and celebration of the bridge’s legacy;
  • sustainability and materiality; and
  • universal accessibility, legibility and wayfinding.

First built in 1900, the Alexandra Bridge is now one of the major connectors between Ottawa and Gatineau, with thousands of crossings per day, accounting for about nine per cent of the average daily interprovincial vehicle traffic, and about 33 per cent of all pedestrian and cyclist crossings.

The Canadian Civil Engineering Society declared the bridge a national historic civic engineering site in 1995.

Public Services and Procurement Canada says maintaining the current bridge for the next 25 years would cost approximately $342 million, whereas replacing the bridge would cost between $194.4 million and $408.8 million, depending on the type of replacement. Three options were chosen, a contemporary slab-on-steel girder bridge, a steel truss replacement-in-kind (similar to the current bridge) and a signature tied-arch structure.

"The project presents a unique opportunity to reimagine this vital connection between Ottawa and Gatineau, which offers one of the most breathtaking views of Parliament Hill and national symbols. Located in the heart of the Capital on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe, the Alexandra Bridge occupies a space rich in symbolism and history," the NCC said.

The NCC plans to hold several more phases of public consultation as designs are submitted. Construction on the replacement span is expected to begin in 2028, with bridge completion by 2032.

Timeline

Phase 1: Project pre-planning stage (2020–2021)

  • Development of vision, including planning and design principles
  • First public consultation: vision, along with planning and design principles, including potential impacts and mitigation (completed)

Phase 2: Project delivery stage (2021–2025)

  • Development of design options
  • Second public consultation: conceptual design options and evaluation
  • Third public consultation: functional and preliminary design of the preferred concept
  • Fourth public consultation: detailed design for construction tendering

Phase 3: Procurement and implementation (2025–2032)

  • Fifth public consultation: final design and construction plan