Sleeping Prince: A look at re-using the Prince Of Wales Bridge

Concept of the O-train crossing the Ottawa River on the dormant Prince Of Wales bridge.

Concept of the O-train crossing the Ottawa River on the dormant Prince Of Wales bridge.

The oldest railway bridge in Ottawa is being considered for a pedestrian/bike path. Finally something is being done to make use of our Prince Of Wales bridge, an Ottawa River landmark built in 1880 that was abandoned in 2001. Since then it has simply been a magnet for daredevils and graffiti. Yet, this solid link to Gatineau could also be re-purposed for something more, making it a vital connection to help alleviate the growing commuter traffic that continues to clog area bridges carrying hundreds of cars at Island Park Drive, Chaudiere, Alexandra Bridge and the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge. A simple gap of a few hundred metres, bureaucracy and money stands between continuing the O-train across the bridge to the Gatineau side using the old existing rail beds and bridge, a purpose for which the Prince Of Wales Bridge was designed for.

1965 aerial image showing the original Canadian Pacific rail line that crossed the Ottawa River on the bridge.

1965 aerial image showing the original Canadian Pacific rail line that crossed the Ottawa River on the bridge. -geoOttawa

It was built in 1880 by the Phoenix Bridge Company for the Québec, Montréal, Ottawa and Occidental Railway to cross the Ottawa River near the busy industrial area of Lebreton Flats and Chaudiere Falls. A few years later the bridge and line was purchased by Canadian Pacific Railway who later modified the bridge in 1926 when they replaced the iron work with heavier iron trusses that could carry heavier rail loads between the two sides. The PoW bridge continued to carry rail traffic until 2001 when the last train chugged across.

The bridge was soon purchased for its scrap value by the City Of Ottawa, but the purchase included the approach land on BOTH sides of the river, which means the City Of Ottawa owns property on the Gatineau/Quebec side. Curiously, the intact tracks that would have led from the newly operating O-train line were disconnected and removed crossing the NCC property during their Lebreton Flats re-vitalization project in 2005.

The Prince Of Wales bridge could utilize the old connection with the existing O-train and continue across the river to Gatineau.

The Prince Of Wales bridge could utilize the old connection (removed in 2005) with the existing O-train and continue across the river to Gatineau. -geoOttawa

It seems like an odd and unnecessary action to literally derail future extension of the O-train over to Gatineau using the PoW bridge, that with some forward thinking upgrades, could certainly ease commuter traffic if properly implemented.

In addition to extending the O-train, of which the original rail beds still exist, future modifications could also see the addition of a pedestrian/cycling path built on the side, much like the one on the Alexandra Bridge further down river.

Currently abandoned, the old bridge could be re-purposed as a cycling/pedestrian river crossing and possibly an O-train extension. -photo Wikipedia public domain

Currently abandoned, the old bridge could be re-purposed as a cycling/pedestrian river crossing and possibly an O-train extension. -photo Wikipedia public domain

With these modifications to a solid, timeless bridge already in place we could certainly help decrease growing commuter traffic building up on our bridges while increasing healthy alternatives to crossing the river with a safe cycling and pedestrian crossing, which is lacking on other bridges.

As I’m sure there are many bureaucratic roadblocks and prohibitive costs involved on both sides of the river that I don’t know about, and there are engineering details that could simply make this a dream, maybe with enough public support for such a vision it could become reality. With the City Of Ottawa owning both the bridge AND the land it connects to on both sides of the river, one has to wonder how the NCC and the City of Gatineau would adversely influence a vision that can, and will help all those involved.

 

From information at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_of_Wales_Bridge

http://www.railways.incanada.net

GeoOttawa

 

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8 comments

  1. Your idea is very interesting given that this morning 02 Feb 2015 Jim Watson said that STO and OC Transpo buses on Wellington-Rideau corridor will have to be decreased in numbers as of 2017 when the LRT comes into service. For unknown reasons Ottawa does not seem interested in establishing a public transit corridor which would facilitate commuting from one side to the other. This O train connection would be very useful to alleviate traffic congestion by building a transit hub on both sides of the river. It can be done, we need vision.

  2. Good to see people on the same conceptual planet!

    Moose Inc submitted documents on 3 Feb to challenge removal of the tracks in federal court. (Your photo showing no track between Bayview and the bridge is incorrect. It’s just overgrown with sumac and weeds. … last time we checked. Just the connection mechanism itself is “temporarily” removed.)

    More info:
    http://www.letsgomoose.com
    http://unpublishedottawa.com/letter/1803/moose-bikepath
    …and for another mock-up of a train crossing this bridge, see the cover of the (forthcoming) Moose Consortium’s Health & Safety Requirements Manual
    http://www.projectmanagementhotel.com/attachments/6044/MooseConsortium_SafetyManagementSystemRequirememts_v1-1_23jan2015PDF.pdf

    Joseph Potvin
    President and General Manager | Président et Directeur général
    Mobility Ottawa-Outaouais: Systems & Enterprises Inc. (Moose Inc.) | http://www.letsgomoose.com
    Mobilité Outaouais-Ottawa: Systèmes & Enterprises Inc. (Moose Inc.) | http://www.onyvamoose.com
    joseph.potvin@letsgomoose.ca
    joseph.potvin@onyvamoose.ca
    Mobile: 819-593-5983

    1. Now that the Sens are about to get the Green Light to build their new Station shopping Mall on LeBreton Flats, bringing Sens Fans from Gatineau via the PoW Bridge would make perfect sense and would deposit the fans at the door of the Stadium. Let’s hope that Melnyk and mayors in Ottawa and Gatineau wake-up to that opportunity.

  3. There is no incentive for the Quebec side to support this. It would take ridership away from the STO, not bring in any new business to their side of the river or go to any business districts on the Quebec side.

    Quebeckers who currently work in Downtown Ottawa generally take one STO bus to get downtown. With an Otrain on the bridge, they would have to take a bus to the Otrain, a train across the river, transfer to another train or bus to get downtown…. not exactly incentive to leave your car at home.

    Yes, it’s a nice bridge and it has tracks.That alone doesn’t justify using it for mass transit.

  4. I attended one of the open houses for the first proposed LRT. I noticed that none of the suggested plans showed this bridge as a future connection point. When asked about this, one presenter said “we were under explicit instructions to ignore the possibility of the bridge”. I was later told that no one wanted to piss off the STO, who, being thirty years behind Ottawa, were just starting to develop their version of the TransitWay, and did not want to hear about any possible train service. (Apparently that position has changed over time, and that Gatineau is now more receptive to the concept.)

    As a cyclist, I think that bridge, with a train down the middle and cycling on one side and walking on the other, would be amazing. I’ll accept it for now as just a recreational path bridge, but rail should go through some day.

  5. I think about the potential of this bridge every time I job past it. Although extending the Otrain to the Rapibus would improve things somewhat, an even better idea would be to pave the bridge and send the Rapibus to Bayview. This would link the Rapibus with both the Otrain and the Confederation line. For Ottawans wishing to go to Gatineau, it would also potentially save one transfer.

    The bridge is bad shape and it would take of money to make usable again. Another benefit of paving it is that decking and buses weight much less than locomotives and track, meaning that repairs would likely cost less…

    Good article.

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