Construction will shut down both directions of Highway 417 in downtown Ottawa this weekend — meaning detours and delays for anyone trying to travel east or west.

North-south travel in the central city might not be so easy, either.

The two-day closure, the longest for Ottawa’s Queensway since the crosstown expressway fully opened in 1966, is to allow crews to replace the highway’s bridge decks over Kent Street.

The highway will close from 11 p.m. Friday to 11 p.m. Sunday. Previous bridge rebuilds over other Ottawa arteries have been accomplished in less than a day, but the presence of a large water main at Kent has thrown a pipe wrench into the provincial Ministry of Transportation’s usual “rapid replacement” approach.

“This is the first time we will have the highway closed for this amount of time,” said MTO spokeswoman Brandy Duhaime, “and we do understand the inconvenience of this.”

Rapid replacement, first used in Canada in 2007 on the Queensway over Island Park Drive, involves cutting out the old spans, pulling them to the side and lifting in new decks that have been prefabricated nearby.

That was planned for the Kent crossing in September before concerns arose that the multi-tonne bridges could damage a water main on the intended route just south of the Queensway along Chamberlain Avenue.

demolition workers under a bridge

Workers backfill the underpass below the old Kent Street bridge to reduce weight and tremors when it falls during demolition. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

Now contractor Aecon Group Inc. will demolish the existing decks in place, haul away the debris and move in the new decks via the Kent Street off-ramp, which is already closed and may not reopen until 2016.

Westbound traffic will divert to Catherine Street, the designated Emergency Detour Route, and return to the Queensway at Lyon or Raymond streets. Eastbound vehicles, however, face a complicated detour from the Rochester Street exit to Bronson Avenue and south to Riverside Drive before heading northeast to reconnect with the highway.

Duhaime said a shorter route wasn’t possible because Chamberlain, the usual EDR, will be closed to all but construction traffic and emergency vehicles. She acknowledged that the Queensway closure and long eastbound detour will put pressure on many downtown streets as drivers seek alternate routes.
queensway_closures“We understand that people will try to find their own way around town, but we do hope that people follow those detours because they are the best identified way of getting from one exit to the other.”

An average 160,000 vehicles travel the downtown Queensway daily. Traffic is lighter on weekends, but an Ottawa Senators game Saturday night will put the detours to the test. Eastbound drivers who normally take Nicholas Street to the ByWard Market or Quebec, meantime, will have to make their way to the Queensway on-ramp at Isabella Street, which will remain open this weekend, or find another route.

To reduce the flow eastward, on-ramps at Parkdale and Carling avenues will also be closed.

For downtown residents, the project will also mean added noise, especially during the demolition expected to start at about 2 a.m. Saturday. Duhaime said neighbours can get a sense of what to expect at www.mtobridges.com.

“We have about a 30-second clip on that website that will show the people, especially in the area of Kent Street, what that demolition operation is going to sound like,” she said.

As with previous replacement projects, the MTO will have bleachers in place for bridgework buffs to watch the weekend construction. A less-chilly option is to watch progress online at the mtobridges website.

The weekend project, the eighth rapid bridge replacement in Ottawa, is part of an $18-million contract that included the demolition of the old Ottawa Board of Education offices of 605 Bronson.

Duhaime said another 23 bridges at 12 locations are under study for possible replacement.

Source (incl. more video sizes): Ottawa Citizen