By Charlie Senack
Labour shortages and supply-chain issues mean it will be another six months before Kitchissippi residents can cross the Chief William Commanda Bridge.
Originally expected to open this fall, construction timelines on the multi-use pathway have been pushed back to spring 2023. The city blames “external factors” and “unforeseen conditions” for the delay.
“The multi-use pathway will be put in service upon completion of the upper bridge works and will be safe for use,” the City of Ottawa website reads. “The remainder of the rehabilitation work will be completed in 2023 with minimal disruption to bridge users. Final cleanup work will be completed by summer 2024.”
Formerly known as the Prince of Wales bridge, the name changed on July 7, 2021, when city council unanimously supported renaming the bridge after Chief William Commanda, an Algonquin elder who served as band chief of the Kitigàn-zìbì Anishinàbeg First Nation from 1951 until 1970.
Commanda was recognized for being a spiritual leader who was an avid promoter for environmental stewardship.
In an interview with the Kitchissippi Times last July, his granddaughter Claudette Commanda, who is also an elder in the Algonquin First Nations community, said the bridge renaming was a sign of reconciliation.
“It is a kind gesture and the right thing to do. Prince of Wales, what type of attachment does he have to us as Algonquin people?” she said. “This is our land. It is respect and recognition for my grandfather.”
The city still plans to complete as much work as possible this fall on the south side of the bridge.
The delay means further frustration for Kitchissippi residents who are struggling to find public greenspace. Lemieux Island is being used as a staging area for construction and Laroche Park in nearby Mechanicsville is closed for revitalization efforts.
“That continues to be a stress,” said Kitchissippi ward councillor Jeff Leiper in an emailed statement.
“My office has pressed the City to find ways to open up space at Lemieux for dogs, but we have not heard back during the election,” he continued. “I will be pressing that once I’m back in the office, and want to thank residents for their patience.”
Once in operation, the $22.6-million former rail bridge will be a key gateway for Kitchissippi residents who are looking to walk or bike over to Gatineau.
The Kichi Sibi winter trail was hoping to use the bridge as a link between their paths and Gatineau Park, however those plans have been put on ice for another year.
Supply-chain issues caused by the pandemic have led to various project delays, including with the new central library downtown and Phase 2 of light rail transit, which is now scheduled to roll through Westboro in 2026.