Aecon starts work on $22.6 million multi-use bridge pathway between Ottawa and Gatineau

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Ottawa Construction News staff writer

Ottawa Jim Watson hosted a ground-breaking event on Nov. 29 to mark the start of construction on the Chief William Commanda Bridge, creating an interprovincial multi-use pathway between the Ottawa and Gatineau shores of the Ottawa River. The construction scope includes structural repairs to the bridge and deck modifications to create the pathway.

The city earlier this year selected Aecon Construction Ontario East complete the project, funded partly by the federal government with an $8.6 million contribution. Ottawa is paying the remaining $14 million.

Built in 1880 as a railway link, the bridge was last in service in 2001. Ottawa purchased the bridge from Canadian Pacific Railway in 2005 for a future light rail corridor.

As a multi-use pathway, it will improve active transportation between Ottawa and Gatineau and serve as a year-round outdoor link for commuting and recreation, including walking, running, rollerblading, cycling, and cross-country skiing, the city said in a statement.

The project includes rehabilitating the bridge’s major structural components to ensure safety and accessibility. It also involves building a new timber deck on top of the existing track, to maintain the steel rails for future rail transit use.

A steel cable railing system and high efficiency LED lighting will be installed, plus 12 new benches for rest areas. In addition, the work includes construction of path segments linking the south end of the bridge to Ottawa’s Trillium Pathway (which connects to the O-Train’s Bayview Station) and the north end to the National Capital Commission’s Voyageurs’ Pathway in Gatineau.

The multi-use pathway is scheduled to open next fall, although additional rehabilitation work to the piers and the pathway connecting to Lemieux Island will continue until the summer of 2024.

MOOSE, a private business consortium, had hoped to use the bridge as a foundation for an inter-urban/provincial rail service, with plans to build pedestrian and cycling lanes on the rehabilitated structure; work which it estimated would cost about $50 million.

But these plans were incompatible with the city’s LRT project, and despite an initial Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) ruling in favour of the business, the federal government overrode the CTA decision through an Order-in-Council ruling. Notably, the city’s decision to maintain the rail bed under the pedestrian pathway helps to ensure that the city won’t lose control over the bridge under railway decommissioning rules.

The city is allocating two per cent (approximately $188,000) of the pathway construction budget to commission Algonquin art for the site.

In July, City Council approved the name Chief William Commanda Bridge to honour William Commanda who served as Chief of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation from 1951 to 1970. Chief Commanda was an Algonquin Elder, spiritual leader, promoter of environmental stewardship and a great bridge builder between nations.

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