Turning the Prince of Wales Bridge into a multi-use pathway to cost $22.6M: City

File photo of the Prince of Wales Bridge spanning the Ottawa River between Ottawa, ON. and Gatineau, QC.

City of Ottawa staff say it will cost about $22.6 million to transform the Prince of Wales Bridge over the Ottawa River into a multi-use pathway until it's ready for rail again.

The 140-year-old bridge connecting Ottawa and Gatineau via Lemieux Island is still expected to be used for rail again in the future but, in the meantime, the City of Ottawa intends to turn it into a pathway that will be used by cyclists and pedestrians and even cross-country skiers, according to a memo sent to city councillors on Monday.

"The City has identified an opportunity to improve active transportation between Ottawa and Gatineau by building a multi-use pathway that would serve as an interprovincial link for pedestrians, commuting and recreational cyclists, cross-country skiers and visitors, until the structure is once again used as a rail transit connection," the memo states.

The proposed pathway would be installed above the existing rail lines on the bridge.

Staff estimate it will cost $22,591,000 to complete the temporary pathway and to repair the piers on the bridge.

The city says it has applied for $8.6 million from the federal government's Public Transit Infrastructure Stream to help cover the cost. The city has already set aside just over $5 million in existing funding for the project and staff are seeking council's approval to use $6.4 million from development charges and another $2.5 million from transit reserves for the project.

In 2019, the city estimated it would cost $10 million to turn the bridge into a pedstrian and cyclist pathway. The city owns the bridge, having bought it from the Canadian Pacific Railway in 2005.

Currently the bridge is meant to be off-limits to the public, though that has not prevented people from using it, sometimes with deadly consequences. Last month, a 26-year-old man from London, Ont. died after he jumped off the bridge and drowned and a 14-year-old boy drowned in the river in July 2020 after jumping from the bridge.

Indigenous artwork and jobs to be part of the project

The planned changes to the bridge will involve Indigenous communities and highlight the history of the Algonquin people of this land. Mayor Jim Watson announced earlier this year that he is seeking support to rename the bridge after the late Algonquin leader William Commanda.

In addition, the city says that approximately $94,000—one per cent of the estimated construction cost of the multi-use pathway portion of the project—would be dedicated to Indigenous art. The city says it will also incorporate in the tender process a provision for the successful contractor to engage with Algonquin communities to identify Indigenous companies and individuals that could be offered jobs throughout the project.

A timeline for construction has not yet been approved. Staff say the project is ready to be tendered and more information will be available once a contract is awarded.