Tuesday, May 28, 2024

HISTORY OF THE HISTORIC PRINCE OF WALES BRIDGE IN OTTAWA

One of the first railroad bridges was built in the Ottawa territories in the late 19th century. It was named after the Prince of Wales. In those days, the Prince of Wales Bridge was of paramount importance, as it was almost the only crossing over the Ottawa River. The bridge has a distinguished and long history, but like many other old bridges in Canada’s capital city, the Prince of Wales Bridge has not been serviced. Read more at ottawa-future.com.

Construction and operation of the first railroad bridge over the Ottawa River

Construction work on one of the first railroad crossings over the Ottawa River went back to 1880. Several Canadian cities, such as Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City, all invested in the construction of the railroad bridge. The Occidental Railway Company had also funded the bridge construction over the Ottawa River.

It was named after Edward Prince of Wales after the railroad bridge construction was completed.

The Prince of Wales Bridge in Ottawa played a significant role as, at the time, it was one of the few crossings over the Ottawa River. Another railroad bridge over the Ottawa River came into service only in the early 20th century.

The railroad bridge saw immense popularity in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Many freight and passenger trains traveled across it. But with the opening of the new and more modern Alexandra Bridge, the Prince of Wales Bridge started falling into obsolescence. Trains traveled across it less and less frequently throughout the 20th century. 

By the end of the 20th century, Ottawa had completely modernized its railway system. Seeing a train pass over the historic Prince of Wales Bridge was a rarity.

Closure of the historic Prince of Wales Bridge

In 2001, the last train passed over the historic Prince of Wales Bridge. In 2005, all railroad tracks leading to the bridge were cut off. The Prince of Wales Bridge ceased to be popular, as railroad traffic no longer needed to cross the Ottawa River. Moreover, plans were underway to build a new water pipeline in the capital at a nearby location.

Since 2005, the historic Prince of Wales Bridge has been unmaintained. It is completely overgrown with vegetation, and trains and cars do not travel across it, except for the occasional Ottawa trespasser who visits the closed bridge.

In the 21st century, the legendary bridge that once served as one of the first railroad crossings over the Ottawa River lies at the center of government controversy. The Ottawa government has been unable to solve the problem of access to the Prince of Wales Bridge for years. Initially, the plan was to turn the old bridge into a pedestrian one for Ottawa residents after the railroad was dismantled.

But for a range of many reasons, Ottawa city officials have not opened pedestrian access to the bridge, arguing the bridge to be unsafe, along with a host of other reasons. That said, the Ottawa city officials did not undertake any upgrades in the many years during which the bridge was out of service. The bridge has been closed to the public since 2005, but Ottawa residents regularly trespass there.

Over fifty calls were made to Ottawa police alone between 2005 and 2016 reporting illegal activity on the Prince of Wales Bridge.

A fourteen-year-old teenager died on the evening of July 3, 2020, after jumping into the river from the top of an out-of-service railroad bridge. He and his friends had climbed the bridge through holes in a fence set up to prevent people from accessing the railroad tracks. As the Ottawa authorities installed the fence, the boy’s family filed a $1.5 million negligence lawsuit against them.

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