City manager responds to Prince of Wales bridge controversy

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Editor’s note: It recently surfaced the city was planning to install barriers at the abandoned Prince of Wales truss bridge. The bridge is popular with pedestrians and cyclists between Ottawa and Gatineau, or just for people looking for a neat sight. Local councillors, including Jeff Leiper and Catherine McKenney have objected. A petition was started to stop the barriers from going up. On Wednesday, City Manager Steve Kanellakos explained the city’s reasoning…

(Via City of Ottawa)

Recently there has been information circulating publicly regarding the Prince of Wales truss bridge. The purpose of this memorandum is to provide the Mayor and Members of Council with the background on this matter, the City’s obligations and continued commitment to public safety and the actions currently being undertaken by staff to fulfill these obligations.

When the Transportation Master Plan was adopted in November 2013, Council directed by motion that if partner funds for the Prince of Wales truss bridge were not forthcoming the next priority would be the Clegg Street cycling and pedestrian overpass. The cost to convert the bridge to a cycling and pedestrian corridor is approximately $10.5 M. The cost to convert the bridge for transit use is estimated to be $20 M to $40 M. During the 2016 Operating and Capital Budget, Council was advised that partner funding to convert the bridge to a cycling and pedestrian facility was not secured. In June 2016, Council approved the transfer of capital funds to the Clegg Street Project from the 2015 cycling structures project.

Council and the City have a longstanding focus on ensuring public safety. Additionally, the City as owner of the bridge has a responsibility legally and morally to protecting public safety. As reaffirmed by Legal Services the City has an obligation to ensure that the appropriate level of maintenance, care and attention is undertaken to ensure that the Prince of Wales truss bridge does not pose a risk to public safety. In the absence of the City effectively fulfilling the obligation to mitigate risks, the City is subject to Transport Canada directions and potential owner/occupier liability claims from members of the public that may result from unauthorized public access and use of the bridge. People who use the bridge for any purpose do so at their own risk.

The City has had discussions with Transport Canada and is currently in the process of reviewing its current practices and proceeding with the installation of cost effective safety barriers, warning notices and monitoring and policing practices for the bridge.

Recently there have been figures advanced publically regarding what the potential cost of implementing these measures will be. I can assure Council that the work to be undertaken will address the City’s public safety and liability obligations in a cost effective manner and in keeping with the comparative practices of other railways in similar circumstances.

Transport Canada, acting through the Minister, has the power to intervene and impose minimum requirements on the City if it believes there are risks to the public associated with this rail line that are not being adequately addressed. Accordingly if the City fails to proceed with the effective measures as generally discussed with Transport Canada there is a risk that Transport Canada will intervene and impose even greater and more expensive requirements on the City.

In closing, I would like to remind Members of Council that the Prince of Wales truss bridge is protected under the City’s Transportation Master Plan as a transit facility.

Steve Kanellakos

OttawaStart Staff

feedback@ottawastart.com

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