City to start designing pathway on unused rail bridge

The City of Ottawa wants to have designs ready to turn the Prince of Wales rail bridge over the Ottawa River into a multi-use pathway, in case federal funding becomes available.

City staff to start looking into Prince of Wales Bridge pathway designs using $540K

The city has long considered using the abandoned Prince of Wales Bridge it owns across the Ottawa River as a multi-use pathway. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

The City of Ottawa wants to have designs ready to turn the Prince of Wales Bridge into a multi-use pathway over the Ottawa River, in case federal funding becomes available.

On Wednesday, city council directed staff to start the environmental assessment and design for that pathway using $540,000 set aside for pier works that it now plans to spread out over time. 

"It's taken a long time to get to where we've gotten today," said Mayor Jim Watson, who tabled the motion.

Coun. Theresa Kavanagh said she has dreamed of such a pathway for nearly twenty years, and thinks of it every time she cycles under the unused bridge on her way to city hall.

The city bought the rail bridge from Canadian Pacific Railway in 2005 and it is in the city's master plan for it to someday be a transit link for rail between Ottawa and Gatineau. That might be a long way off, however, as Gatineau is planning for its future tram to cross the river using the nearby Portage Bridge.

As an interim use, the city has long considered using the old, unused Prince of Wales Bridge as a scenic connection for cyclists and pedestrians travelling between Ottawa and Gatineau, but it needs some structural repairs that would require funding from upper levels of government.

The city is obligated to inspect and maintain the unused bridge. In recent years, the city faced the prospect of paying to repair rail lines it ripped up leading to the bridge during LRT construction until the federal cabinet overturned that Canadian Transportation Agency order.

It has also sought to block access to the bridge for safety reasons. Last summer, a 14-year-old boy died after jumping from the bridge while swimming with friends.

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