New Rideau River foot bridge is finally open

Reading Time: 6 minutes

It has been a long time coming and for part of that time the bridge was just sitting there in place. But after 43 months we can now enjoy a shortcut across the Rideau River at Carleton University, avoiding Billings bridge. (Feature photo at the top and drone pictures further down: Patrick -of fame- McKay. Thank you Patrick for sharing the pics with me)

Construction started in 2020

The bridge connects Vincent Massey Park with Carleton University

According to the date stamps on my photos, preparation and construction of the bridge started in December 2020. Crews were out in winter preparing the site for construction of the abutments on both sides of the Rideau River at the south end of Carleton University.

A machine moving dirt on the site of a river
Starting the prep work for the bridge in December 2020

The popular pathway through Vincent Massey Park was not immediately rerouted but eventually that was necessary to maneuver large equipment around. A staging area was built a bit further south in the woods. Very nicely, the contractor built a pedestrian bridge for its workers to cross the path, a rarity, but smart thinking.

a temporary short bridge across a pathway
Detour for the construction crew: a fairly unique temporary bridge built for workers

Construction of the steel bridge started off site, on a parking lot at the north end of Carleton University’s property, near Colonel By and Dow’s Lake.

The finished bridge waiting at a parking lot at Carleton U.
a metal truss bridge resting on a trailer and blogs on a parking lot
The bridge waiting to be transported

Bridge moved across the university property

In July 2022 the bridge was carefully moved to the south end of the university’s property where the Rideau River passes Carleton U. It was than lifted into place by a giant crane on July 23, 2022 in about 30 minutes.

a bridge resting on a large number of wheels
Originally from the Netherlands, Dutch company Mammoet looked after the transport and lifting of the bridge

After this major milestone, it was just a few more months until we could use the bridge. City councillors and residents were looking forward. There were some suggestions that the bridge could be open before the end of 2022, two years after the start of construction. But not much happened. The bridge was just sitting there while some work was being done on and off.

A tall crane stands at the end of a road between trees
A concrete abutment being built at the edge of a river, a large red crane stands at the opposite site
The abutments waiting for the bridge
The location of the bridge looking more or less east. Carleton U is on the left, Vincent Massey Park on the right Image Patrick McKay
A large red crane lifts a bridge into place across a river. Several people are standing on rocks in the river to watch the bridge
The bridge being lifted in place
Bridge being lifted in place. Photo facing Carleton U and downtown in the background. The train bridge is being renovated as part of LRT stage 2 Image: Patrick McKay

A quiet two years

The on ramps were built on both ends, the railings and the deck were installed and then it became quiet again.

The winter of 2022-2023 came and went.

The winter of 2023-2024 came and went.

unfinished landscaping in front of a pedestrian bridge over a river. Concrete walls are built around a tree. A ramp is half finished with crushed stone
Landscaping started

The bridge was built as part of the Light Rail Line 2 upgrades and someone smartly folded the bridge into the project. I have no idea how that works, but if I was to guess, I would say it was suggested the bridge could serve in a rescue operation because the train bridge lies next to it. The bridge is definitely engineered to carry much larger loads than a fully loaded bakfiets or two.

Open, then closed again; Oops!

By end of March 2024, the bridge finally opened. Or so everyone thought. X’s (formerly known as Tweets) went out with photos of people already using the bridge. But hours later former CBC journalist Kate Porter, now at Carleton U, overlooking the construction site, X-ed out a photo of crews putting the fences back up.

Unfortunately, the bridge could not be handed over to the city, as it’s part of the LRT upgrade project. And the completion date of the LRT project keeps being postponed. The Covid years likely didn’t help either as there were worldwide shortages of materials. “Lessons learned”, Councillor Brockington assured me, and associated projects that are finished earlier will be allowed to open earlier.

I am not too impressed with the way this was finished

Finally officially open

But finally it opened after 43 months on June 15, 2024 (My grandmother’s 113th birthday) and I went to check it out. A crowd op people gathered on the bridge on a cool but very sunny Saturday morning and several councillors opened the bridge, holding the golden scissors to cut the ribbon. City of Ottawa staff Sam and Danny were attaching a bike counter, so we will soon have some data.

An image of the inside of the bridge. An orange bike is parked in the centre to show how wide the bridge is
The bridge is wide, I estimate close to 6 meters. The wooden railing is a nice touch
A river with rapids with trees on the left and right. There are also university buildings on the right
Awesome views from the bridge on the Rideau river. On the right are several Carleton U buildings, on the left is Vincent Massey Park

The one thing I found unfortunate is that a nice, flattish, peaceful area of the river had to be sacrificed for the bridge. But something has to give. There is still a bit of a rocky beach on the southside.

For me, it doesn’t serve much of a purpose coming from Nepean and travelling more east-west in that area via the Hartwells Locks, but I am interested to hear in the comments if you are planning to use the bridge and how it connects for you. Here is also a CTV clip for you.

Fun fact: the LRT bridge next to the new bridge is part of the oldest railways system in Ottawa, going back to the late 1800’s, when a track was built from the Prince of Wales train bridge (now the Chief William Commanda Bridge) to the tracks that connected Ottawa with Prescott, the first railway in Ottawa. I wrote blogs posts about that too.

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    1 Comment

    1. The new Rideau bridge is a handsome structure but not nearly as useful as the recent crossings of the Rideau River and canal. There is already a much less hilly route to Hogsback via University Drive and the canal path. And Billings Bridge will soon be much more bike friendly. What is very much needed is a 1 km connection to the Sawtooth Creek paths, and on to south Ottawa. There is plenty of room for a path at the Riverside Drive rail bridge, and the narrow Heron Road rail underpass is easily bypassed.

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