The Alexandra Bridge has been an iconic feature of the Ottawa–Gatineau skyline for over 120 years. Originally built to accommodate rail and other modes of transportation, the bridge is now used annually by thousands of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. It is reaching 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 NCC is leading a comprehensive engagement process on this project.
The latest on the project
The fall 2021 consultation phase is now complete. More than 1,800 people took part in the engagement process. Their input will inform the initial phase of the impact assessment process, as well as the next steps in the planning and design stages. A summary report will be created following this round of consultation, with a section that showcases how the comments raised are being or will be addressed.
A separate engagement process is also under way with Indigenous partners.
Planning and design principles
During the first round of consultation in fall 2020, over 3,000 participants gave feedback on the planning and design principles that build on the bridge’s legacy. In June 2021, the NCC Board of Directors approved these guiding principles.
Impact assessment process
An initial project description will be submitted to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) in early 2022. The project will move to the planning stage at that time.
About the Alexandra Bridge
The Alexandra Bridge was the first of five interprovincial bridges in Canada’s Capital Region that link the cities of Ottawa, Ontario, and Gatineau, Quebec. The bridge spans the Ottawa River from Nepean 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’s 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 on the City of Ottawa’s Heritage Register for its cultural heritage value or interest.
- 2018: A life cycle 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
The replacement of the Alexandra Bridge will take place in the following three stages.
- Development of the planning and design principles
- Public consultation 1a: Share project information, consult on planning and design principles, potential impacts, and mitigation measures
- Public consultation 1b: Share project updates, consult on anticipated benefits and potential impact mitigation strategies
Planning and design
- Submission of the initial project description to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada
- Development of design options
- Public consultation 2: Conceptual design options
- Public consultation 3: Functional design
- Public consultation 4: Preliminary design
Procurement and implementation
- Procurement process to award developed design and construction contract
- Public consultation 5: Final detailed 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 allows simultaneous use for active mobility, public transportation and personal vehicles.
The following requirements reflect some of the input received in the first round of consultation.
- Two lanes for vehicle traffic (one in each direction) that could later be adapted for a tram or light rail system.
- One two-way lane for active mobility (pedestrians, cyclists and users of mobility devices), 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.
- 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.
Located in the heart of the Capital Region on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe Nation, and offering one of the area’s most breathtaking views of Parliament, the new bridge will occupy a space rich in symbolism and history.
From its materials to its uses and appearance, it will — like its predecessor — make a statement about the values and needs of the times in which it was built.
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.
Mobility and continuity of the urban fabric
- The new bridge will continue to complement the Confederation Boulevard ceremonial route, and seamlessly connect pedestrians, cyclists and drivers between Ottawa and Gatineau.
Public space and civic experiences
- The new bridge will be a strong and dynamic public space that will create new opportunities for enhancing the communal, cultural and sensory experiences.
Structure, height, proportions and lighting
- The new bridge will be designed as a signature bridge that will complement the landscape and landmarks of the Capital. It will build on and continue the legacy of our national icons.
Preservation of views and celebration of the bridge’s legacy
- The new bridge will maintain the essence of the Alexandra Bridge, while continuing to allow visitors to view and experience the Ottawa River and the Capital’s cultural landscape.
Sustainability and materiality
- The new bridge will be a model of sustainability and respect traditional Indigenous knowledge as part of its core values and conceptualization.
Universal accessibility, legibility and wayfinding
- The new bridge will provide equitable and safe access for all users. It will provide clear and consistent wayfinding throughout the Confederation Boulevard route for daily commuters and visitors alike.
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 that this project could have, and are looking for solutions.
Careful consideration will be given to the impact that the construction activities will have on vehicle and active traffic, traffic management operations, public and private transit operators, emergency services, 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 so on) and other disruptions to nearby communities, landowners 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.
There will be several opportunities for members of the public, stakeholders and Indigenous partners to provide feedback throughout the various stages of the project. There will be a minimum of five rounds of public consultation.
The first round of consultations revealed:
- the importance of recognizing and incorporating the heritage elements of the bridge in the planning and design principles, including several suggestions to commemorate the bridge’s history and heritage
- the need for tangible safety improvements, such as the separation of cyclists and pedestrians
- the importance of considering opportunities for the integration of public transit
- the importance of engaging on conceptual design options in the next rounds of consultation
The IAAC will also conduct its own separate engagement process as per the regulatory requirements under the Impact Assessment Act.