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60 Years of Road Salt Has Destroyed Ottawa’s Alexandra Bridge: Officials

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A 123-year old interprovincial bridge connecting downtown Ottawa with Gatineau, Que., is nearing its end thanks to the effects of six decades of road salt, federal officials said on July 10.

The Alexandra Bridge, which opened to trains, streetcars and horse-drawn wagons in 1901, has now rusted so thoroughly it cannot be maintained.

“There are no solutions to maintain the bridge,” said Paul LeBrun, the Procurement Department’s chief engineer for bridges.

The officials refused to say how much they think it will cost to build a new bridge, but a 2018 assessment estimated it at $800 million.

“Obviously, a lot has happened since (then) with the pandemic, inflation, so … those have changed over time,” Mr. LeBrun said.

Stefan Dery, the department’s director-general for management of active infrastructure, said the project will be designed with a private-sector consortium and that means “we do need to be sensitive around communicating project numbers as we advance into a competitive selection process.”

The procurement process for a new bridge will start in the fall, when the public will have a chance to weigh in on three design options.

A design should be chosen by the spring of 2025 and full approvals in place for the spring of 2028, with construction estimated to start in 2028 and the bridge expected to open in 2032.

During that construction phase, the Alexandra Bridge will have to be torn down, sometime around 2028 or 2029.

“We have several mitigation measures on the bridge” in the meantime to ensure it’s safe, Mr. LeBrun said.

“But obviously, given the state of the bridge, there could be surprises or maybe additional repairs between now and then,” he said.

The bridge is undergoing some maintenance work now, and is closed to vehicles though pedestrians and cyclists can still use it. That work, initially scheduled to end this fall, will now take until next February.

That will mean it’s reopened in time for work to begin on the Chaudières crossing and the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge, two of the five vehicle crossings in the National Capital Region.

The Alexandra Bridge typically carries around 18,000 vehicles a day—about 10 percent of daily crossings on the Ottawa River—and another 4,000 pedestrians and cyclists.

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