The Alexandra Bridge has been an iconic feature of the Ottawa–Gatineau skyline for over 120 years. Originally built to accommodate rail, as well as other modes of transportation, the bridge is now used annually by thousands of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. It has reached the end of its service life and is due for replacement. Ongoing repairs will allow it to remain in use until the start of construction in 2028.

In partnership with Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) — the department responsible for the management of the Alexandra Bridge — the National Capital Commission (NCC) is leading a comprehensive engagement process on this project.

Alexandra Bridge, the Ottawa River and Parliament Hill from Gatineau.

The latest on the project

PSPC's Alexandra Bridge replacement project is currently in the planning and design stage. Engagement activities and studies will also contribute to meeting the commitments in the Detailed Project Description, as outlined in the Impact Assessment Agency’s decision.

Discover the extensive work and collaboration behind replacing this iconic bridge in PSPC's new story "Getting ready for a new bridge."

Technical advisor

In spring 2023, PSPC retained the services of a technical advisor (TA) to support PSPC and the NCC and coordinate and complete a number of economic, heritage and environmental studies, as well as develop the conceptual designs of the new bridge.

Design framework

The project team created a design framework to guide the early design stages. The development of the design involves many different steps that include input from Indigenous communities, the public and stakeholders, as well as expert and review committees.

The integrated project team (NCC, PSPC and the TA) has also developed performance criteria against which it will evaluate the bridge’s final conceptual design. These criteria are based on planning and design principles that were the subject of a public consultation in the fall of 2020 and approved by the NCC board of directors in June 2021.

Performance criteria

Independent review panel

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) has assembled, through an expression of interest, an independent review panel (IRP) comprised of professionals with expertise in multiple disciplines, including, but not limited to, Indigenous culture and values, heritage preservation, architecture, engineering and urban planning. The main purpose of the IRP is to review technical aspects and recommend a preferred concept design for subsequent consideration by the NCC Board of Directors.

Public advisory group

A public advisory group (PAG) has also been established to provide a space for feedback and consultation. The group draws together different perspectives, expertise and interests. The group is responsible for ensuring that community and stakeholder interests are considered in the project decisions.

The IRP will function distinctly from the PAG. Feedback from the PAG, public consultations and Indigenous engagement will be provided to the panel.

About the Alexandra Bridge

The Alexandra Bridge was the first of five interprovincial bridges in the National Capital Region to link the cities of Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec. The bridge spans the Ottawa River from Kìwekì Point in Ottawa to the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau. On an average daily basis, the bridge is used in approximately 9 percent of interprovincial crossings by motorists and about 33 percent of crossings by active mobility users (e.g. pedestrians, cyclists, users of mobility devices).

The bridge is a major national landmark. It is recognized for its iconic beauty and world-class workmanship. Here is a brief overview of its history.

  • 1898–1900: Construction of the Alexandra Bridge, the first cantilevered span bridge in Canada, by Canadian engineers and designers.
  • 1901: The bridge is completed.
  • 1995: The bridge is designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Site by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering.
  • 2010: A heritage value assessment rates the bridge as an engineering asset of national historic importance.
  • 2017: The bridge is included in the City of Ottawa’s Heritage Register for its cultural heritage value or interest.
  • 2018: A lifecycle cost analysis determines that replacing the bridge would be less disruptive to the public than trying to maintain the existing bridge and would also be more cost effective.
  • 2019: The Government of Canada directs that the bridge be replaced within 10 years.
  • 2019: Pre-planning for a replacement bridge begins.
  • 2021: The bridge is added to the National Trust for Canada’s Endangered Places List.

Process and timeline

Replacement of the Alexandra Bridge involves the following three stages.

Pre-planning (completed)

Planning and design

  • Submission of the initial project description to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (spring 2022)
  • Submission of the detailed project description to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (winter 2023)
  • Decision by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (spring 2023)
  • Development of design framework and concept design options (underway)
  • Public consultation 2: Conceptual design options (fall 2024)
  • Public outreach and reporting (winter/spring 2025)
  • Public consultation 3: Reference design (spring/summer 2025)
  • Indigenous engagement (ongoing)

    Procurement and implementation

    • Procurement process to award developed design and construction contract
    • Public consultation 4: Preliminary developed design
    • Public consultation 5: Final design and construction plan
    • Deconstruction of the existing structure and start of new bridge construction

      Basic requirements of the new bridge

      The new bridge will be designed in a way that simultaneously allows active mobility, public transportation and personal vehicles.

      The following requirements reflect some of the input received in the first round of consultation.

      1. Two lanes for vehicle traffic (one in each direction) that could later be adapted for a tram or light rail system.
      2. One two-way lane for active mobility (pedestrians, cyclists and mobility device users), with clear separation of pedestrians and cyclists, on the west side of the bridge. It should include seating to provide safe and unobstructed rest points and viewing locations.
      3. All lanes will have a solid surface to protect the bridge from the elements, de-icing products and dirt. This will allow for a longer-lasting structure.

      Planning and design principles

      The vision for the new structure is to create a bridge as a unique civic place, reflective of Canadian values and identity, and respectful of the integrity of the national capital’s cultural landscapes.

      The following guiding principles will provide additional direction on the design of the new bridge in the areas of planning, heritage protection, urban design and sustainability.

      During the first round of consultation in fall 2020, over 3,000 participants gave feedback on these principles. In June 2021, the NCC Board of Directors approved them.

      Mobility and continuity of the urban fabric

      Public space and civic experiences

      Structure, height, proportions and lighting

      Preservation of views and celebration of the bridge’s legacy

      Sustainability and materiality

      Universal accessibility, legibility and wayfinding

      Alexandra Bridge planning and design principles

      What the project means for you

      The replacement of the Alexandra Bridge is a unique opportunity to reimagine this vital connection between Ottawa and Gatineau. We are analyzing the many impacts this project could have and are looking for solutions.

      Traffic

      Careful consideration will be given to the impact that construction activities will have on vehicle and active transportation, traffic management operations, public and private transit operators, emergency services, residents, and businesses in the vicinity of the bridge.

      Environment and sustainability

      The replacement of the bridge will be planned to optimize health and safety, environmental protection, and the principles of sustainable development, including resilience, low carbon emissions and waste reduction.

      The project team will conduct further studies to understand the potential impacts of the project, for example, on fisheries, archaeology and wildlife.

      Life, work and recreation

      The replacement of the bridge will be planned to limit the effects of construction (e.g. noise, vibration, dust) and other disruptions to nearby communities, residents and businesses, as well as visitors to the region.

      There may be temporary impacts on access to neighbouring green spaces and the Ottawa River.

      • Neighbouring boat launch, wharf and marina: We recognize the importance of recreational and commercial boating in the area and will continue to engage with the public, stakeholders and Indigenous partners on this matter.

      The project is subject to the NCC’s federal approval process.

      NCC’s federal approval process

      The purpose of the NCC’s federal land use, design and transaction approval (FLUDTA) review process is to support the protection of the character and national significance of the Capital.

      Given the significance and complexity of the Alexandra Bridge replacement project, the FLUDTA process will involve a series of sequential approvals to be considered by the NCC Board of Directors at key milestones of the early bridge design.

      The NCC’s Advisory Committee on Planning, Design and Realty (ACPDR) will also provide feedback at key design milestones. The committee consists of experts in real estate development; environmental, urban and regional planning; urban design; architecture; and landscape architecture.

      Engagement

      There will be several opportunities for members of the public, stakeholders and Indigenous communities to provide feedback throughout the various stages of the project. There will be a minimum of five rounds of public consultation, while Indigenous engagement will occur throughout the project phases.

      This first rounds of consultations revealed four key themes:

      • the preservation and commemoration of heritage elements and reflecting Indigenous heritage and values, as well as honouring LGBTQ2+ lives
      • the importance of building relationships with impacted businesses and residents, and continued engagement throughout the project
      • suggestions to find innovative ways to reduce project impacts, for example, environmental, construction and economic
      • the need for better connections between the bridge, surrounding neighbourhoods and tourist destinations in the area

      Upcoming public consultations

      The next round of public consultations is anticipated to launch in fall 2024.

      Public advisory group

      The public advisory group (PAG) held its first meeting in fall 2023. At that meeting, members learned about the design framework and the early work to identify multiple conceptual design options, as well as the proposed engagement plan. Members provided feedback on the design objectives and ideas on different engagement activities.

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