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.
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.
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.
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: