Queensway Bridges Replacement


Possible 90-week detours on Queen Elizabeth and Colonel By


By John Dance

Tired of detours due to the replacement of bridges along the Queensway? Well, get ready for the mother of all disruptions – detours that could close key parts of the Queen Elizabeth Driveway and Colonel By Drive for almost two years.

The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) is barrelling ahead with its recommendation of 90-week detours along the two roads when it replaces the Highway 417 bridge over the Rideau Canal.

The project, expected to start within three years, is the next step in the MTO’s lengthy plan to replace all the 60-year-old bridges along the Queensway. The Canal bridge is the most complicated because of its length and its location over the heritage-protected Rideau Canal.

The Metcalfe and Elgin bridges must also be replaced, but they require only three-week detours in advance of the weekends when the fabricated bridges are quickly hoisted into place. The actual detours for users of the Queensway will only be for a couple of days.

Although the MTO planning for new downtown bridges has been underway for more than five years, it was only at a November online information session that residents learned of the proposed 90-week detours. In the two previous sessions, they only mentioned brief detours required for the actual “rapid replacement” of the assembled new structure.

The detours of QED will require all pedestrians, cyclists and motorists to detour around the construction site by way of Elgin and Argyle, so the very congested Elgin-Isabella-Pretoria Bridge intersection will become that much worse. MTO has been asked if they have done any traffic studies to determine the impact of the detours, but it has not replied. The City of Ottawa hasn’t done any studies either because it says it’s MTO’s responsibility.

The Old Ottawa East community is concerned about the detour around Colonel By Drive because all that traffic would end up on a Main-Hawthorne route, already highly congested at peak periods. A further complication is that the bridge replacement will follow the three-year reconstruction of Main and Hawthorne that’s now underway. The combined disruption of the two projects – which also involves replacing the Queensway bridge over Main Street – could total more than five years, which may overwhelm affected businesses and residents.

“The bike detours that the MTO put in place recently for the Percy Street closure pertaining to the 417 Percy bridge replacement were completely insufficient and, frankly, dangerous,” says Matthew Meagher, co-chair of the GCA’s Transportation Committee. “For a large part of the first Percy closure, the MTO detours were directing cyclists, and particularly Grade 7 and 8 students going to Glashan, out onto unprotected bike lanes in the fast traffic on Chamberlain, before expecting them to walk their bikes for several blocks.

“If they were to take a similar approach to bike detours on Main/Hawthorne, funneling cyclists into mixed traffic, it would be unsafe and unworkable,” says Meagher. “Our plan is to push hard to get them to give some real attention to cyclists and pedestrians, rather than just focusing on how they get cars through our neighbourhoods quickly. Whether that means staggering the closures or building a temporary structure out into the canal to get people around the construction, I’m not sure.”

At the previous online information session three years ago, MTO’s recommended plan for bridge reconstruction required the demolition of two buildings near the northeast corner of Colonel By Drive and Hawthorne Avenue. A number of residents objected to the demolition, not knowing that the alternative to demolition would be 90-week detours.

MTO says the new recommendation will save the two buildings, avoid endangering a major watermain to the south of the bridge and improve safety in the construction area. MTO noted in an email, “The new bridges must be constructed on temporary piers and abutments (ends of the bridge) that will be in place for the duration of the construction period (90 weeks) … The temporary piers are directly within the travel lanes of the two parkways, and they cannot be relocated.”

Both recommended plans say the Rideau Skateway and Canal boat traffic will not be adversely affected.

In May, MPP Joel Harden and representatives of the Old Ottawa East Community Association met with MTO officials who noted that after the November online information session, they’d received only 12 comments expressing “concern for impacts to active transportation, tourism and traffic.” They also noted that the parkway closures were “formally accepted by NCC letter dated November 23, 2021,” a year before the recommendation was made public.

Capital Ward Councillor Shawn Menard and Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi have also criticized MTO’s consultation process and the plan for 90-week detours.

MTO will finalize its “transportation environmental study report” on the bridge-replacement project this spring, and there will be a 30-day public review in the summer.


John Dance is an Old Ottawa East resident, an occasional contributor to the Glebe Report, and a daily visitor to the Glebe. Parts of the article above originally appeared in The Mainstreeter.

The replacement of the 417 bridge over the Rideau Canal will require 90-week detours of both Canal parkways, says the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario.

Photo: John Dance

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