Thursday, June 20, 2024

How the Chaudiere Bridge was built in Ottawa

Canada’s capital city has about five large bridges that connect the city to other provinces. Bridges have long been the primary transport routes for raw materials. In the 21st century, they have remained a crucial element of logistics. Hundreds of thousands of cars, bicyclists and pedestrians cross bridges every day. Learn more at

The Chaudière Bridge is one of many bridges that cross the Ottawa River. It was built in the early 19th century. The century-old bridge serves as a junction connecting the Canadian capital with Quebec City and Gatineau in the 21st century. The Chaudière Bridge has been restored several times, though, despite that, one section of the bridge still has the original parts that were still being built during the time of the Royal Engineer, Colonel John By.

Challenging bridge construction

At the beginning of the 19th century, there was another bridge in place of the Chaudière Bridge, the Union Bridge. Similar to the Rideau Canal, this particular old bridge was built under the capable direction of the talented engineer John By. The bridge was built in 1828. The bridge was the first and only one at the beginning of the 19th century to connect the two settlements. But even during the bridge construction, problems arose. One of the bridge spans collapsed despite a wooden arch being installed at the base of the span. Stone arches were then installed in smaller spans. The old Chaudière Bridge was 65 meters long.

The Chaudière Bridge was urgently needed in the early 19th century. The reason was that the original base of the Rideau Canal was not in future Canada’s capital but in Hull, which was on the opposite bank of the Ottawa River. The bridge construction has become a veritable symbol of the unification of the two provinces and cities.

Another collapse of the bridge occurred in 1836. The main span of the Chaudhières bridge collapsed again. While the destroyed span was being repaired, a ferry service was operating in Ottawa. The collapsed span of the Chaudier Bridge could not be rebuilt until seven years later. However, with the bridge reopening with a restored span, the problems with it did not end. Over the years, there have been repeated troubles with the main span of the Chaudière Bridge. It has been reconstructed several times. The smaller spans, however, have remained virtually intact and retained their ancient architectural appearance.

The new span of the Chaudière Bridge, which opened in 1943, was no longer made of wood but of metal. Its height was 74 meters. It was a new suspension bridge. The suspension cables for the Chaudière Bridge came all the way from Britain. They were delivered to Montreal and then taken by barge to old Ottawa. The Chaudière Suspension Bridge was the first of its kind in all of Canada. It was considered a true engineering marvel.

In the 19th century, a toll was charged for crossing the Chaudière Bridge. Back then, the business was incredibly successful. But, despite this, the bridge remained a rather dangerous place. Although it was tolled and maintained according to all standards, Ottawa residents regularly complained throughout the 19th century that crossing the bridge was extremely dangerous. In particular, walking across the bridge at night was highly risky because the railing on the Chaudière Bridge was very low. Also, the walkways on the bridge were regularly flooded. Since the water had no place to go, the paths were constantly wet and muddy.

In 1889, difficulties again arose with the main span, so it was restored using steel again. The Chaudière Bridge, which every Ottawa resident knows, was built only in 1919.

Multiple closures and restorations of the Chaudière Bridge

Throughout the 20th century and the 21st century, the problems with the Chaudière Bridge have not ended. It has been closed and restored many times. Another closure was in 2008 because the stone spans had become unsafe. The bridge was also closed in 2019, owing to the Ottawa city officials’ fears of flooding.

The last reconstruction that was done on the Chaudière Bridge was in 2022. This time the Chaudière Bridge was not entirely closed, namely, it was closed only to vehicles. Pedestrians were able to move safely across the bridge.

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