‘Ottawa’ City to Install $250,000 Gates on Prince of Wales Bridge to Block Access
Catch the sunset while you still can — the city is planning to install large, steel gates to prevent people from getting onto the Prince of Wales Bridge.
The city’s plan is to spend $250,000 on the barriers, said Coun. Jeff Leiper, who’d rather see the city invest in making the popular spot safer.
The Kitchissippi rep said he and Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney learned several months ago about the infrastructure department’s plan to block access to the bridge by installing steel gates at either end. Fences currently used to block access to the decommissioned rail bridge spanning the Ottawa River are repeatedly pulled down by people wanting to cross to the Gatineau side or enjoy spectacular views of the river at sunset.
Leiper and McKenney have no authority to halt the plans but “objected in very strong terms,” he said. “The answer to addressing safety risks on this bridge is to properly upgrade it, not to close it.”
Reached on Friday, the city could not provide comment on plans for the bridge.
At one time, the city had money set aside to upgrade the bridge, but the cash was diverted late last year to the proposed Fifth-Clegg bridge over the Rideau Canal, which Mayor Jim Watson has described as “our No. 1 priority” for a foot bridge.
The estimated cost of fixing up the Prince of Wales Bridge — $10.5 million — was more expensive than anticipated and the city never reached an agreement with the City of Gatineau and National Capital Commission to split the costs of construction (even though the NCC’s recently released 50-year plan for the capital calls for the creation of a multi-use path across the bridge to connect Ottawa and Gatineau).
“This is an asset we should be making maximum use of,” Leiper said. “Those river views are hard to come by.”
Leiper says he’s not aware of a history of serious incidents or injuries on the bridge. Instead, he sees it as a popular summer destination that saw its fame increase after a picture of a couple enjoying a romantic dinner went viral last year.
“When we’re looking at the allocation of city resources, the expenditure of a quarter-million dollars is pretty substantial to address a non-existent problem,” he said.
Police warned the public last year after a pair of swarmings on or near the bridge. And that may have worried the federal government, which, according to Leiper, asked the city to close off the bridge permanently.
In one incident, three teenagers walking across the bridge towards Ottawa were confronted by a group of up to five others, who rushed at them and demanded any valuables. While running away from the attackers, one of the victims jumped over the guard rail, falling onto a pathway below and injuring his lower leg.
A second robbery two days later didn’t happen on the bridge, but on a bike path that passes underneath it.
It’s not clear when the gates will be installed. Leiper said he did not know if the project had gone out to tender.