Ottawa

A bridge not far? NCC promising update on 6th crossing

The National Capital Commission (NCC) is promising an update early in the new year on the ongoing effort to build a new bridge between Ottawa and Gatineau.

New report on interprovincial span expected early 2020

The Alexandra Bridge will soon close for replacement, leaving the capital with only four crossings over the Ottawa River. (Darren Major/CBC)

The National Capital Commission (NCC) is promising an update early in the new year on the ongoing effort to build a new bridge between Ottawa and Gatineau.

The federal government revived the idea of a sixth interprovincial span in its budget last March, and tasked the NCC with refreshing its controversial report from 2013 that called for a crossing at Kettle Island in the capital's east end.

NCC CEO Tobi Nussbaum says that updated study will be made public in early 2020. The federal government is expected to make a decision on a sixth bridge later next year.

"If the government does proceed, we'll have to work very, very closely with our municipal partners. You can't do that alone," said Nussbaum, a former Ottawa city councillor. 

Transportation blueprint

The NCC is also seeking a consulting firm to come up with a blueprint for how Ottawa, Gatineau and their respective provinces can come together on an integrated transportation plan for the capital.

The tangled jurisdictions present a unique challenge, according to the tender notice, because of the various players responsible for the region's bridges, highways, roads and pathways.

For example, Gatineau wants to use the NCC's Portage Bridge for trams or trains, while the City of Ottawa's unused Prince of Wales rail bridge is being considered for a multi-use pathway.

Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, left, and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, right, stand in front of the disused Prince of Wales Bridge in September. Both mayors expressed surprise when the federal government revived the idea of sixth interprovincial span, saying they didn't want to revisit the debate. (Kate Porter/CBC)

At the same time, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) plans to replace the 118-year-old Alexandra Bridge, affecting traffic for at least three years while it's closed.

"In the past we've worked ... separately. Now we'll plan transportation together, and that, I think, is the key to success," said Gatineau mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin.

The winning firm will need to recommend how to best move people around the region in a way that considers climate change targets and trends such as electric and autonomous vehicles. 

That long-term strategy is due by June 2021.

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