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Pont Noir pier repairs

The pont Noir, which spans the Gatineau river, underwent repairs in 2011-2012 as part of the Rapibus corridor project. At that time, the original infrastructure, designed for trains, was converted to accommodate buses. These days, close to 300 buses cross it during peak periods Mondays to Fridays.

During the 2017 and 2019 spring floods, it was thanks to pont Noir that the STO was able to maintain its services. In fact, first respondents were using the bridge to cross the Gatineau river.

The bridge's history

In the first three quarters of the 19th century, the Outaouais did not yet have a railway. In 1854, the city of Hull started receiving its commercial goods through the Bytown and Prescott Railway [1]. The BPR connected Ottawa (Bytown) and Prescott, a small Ontario town on the US border. Thus, businesses in the Outaouais were required to deal with Ontario and the United States to sell or buy products.

In the early 1850s, a project to build the first rail link between Hull and Montréal was launched. Unfortunately, after part of the Carillon and Grenville section was built, the main project promoter died, prematurely ending construction [2].

Some 20 years later, the Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa and Occidental Railway (QMO&OR) revived the project. The company managed to get public funding. The Government of Quebec undertook to cover the railway's construction after securing the commitment of the affected counties and municipalities [3]. The Outaouais allocated $200,000 to the project [4].The railway between Hull and Montréal was completed in 1877. The Hull station on rue Montcalm served as the terminal until 1879 [5].

The railway had to cross a number of waterways on its way across the Outaouais, including the Gatineau river, in order to reach Pointe Gatineau in Hull. The railway bridge across the Gatineau river was built out of steel from plants in Pittsburgh. Its metal structure rests on large stone piers installed in the middle of the river. This bridge, which was never given an official name, is today commonly called pont Noir.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the pont Noir was the only rail link between Gatineau and Hull. Every train travelling between the Montréal and Hull stations in either direction crossed it. The bridge was part of a rail system that played a key role in the Outaouais' economic development. Goods from the northern part of the region could be transported to Montréal, which was a tremendous boon for its agricultural and, especially, its forestry sectors. Starting in 1877, sawmills in the Outaouais (particularly those operating in Hulb| which at the time shipped most of their wood to the United States, now had an efficient way to get their goods to buyers in Montréal. Thus, the pont Noir and its railway significantly expanded the pool of buyers for goods produced in the Outaouais. In addition, local businesses could procure materials, machinery and other things they needed from there. This meant that they were no longer limited to rail traffic between Ontario and the United States.

Several passenger trains also linked Montréal and Hull, providing a quick way to travel between the Outaouais and the metropolis.

The public funding that had been allocated for the railway's construction was seen by the county as an investment that would have a beneficial impact on the entire region for many years. Thanks to the pont Noir and the railway, not only were people more mobile, but commercial and industrial activity in the Outaouais was able to grow.

Text by Adrien Joanis-Sirois, historian.


[1] Lucien Brault, Hull, 1800-1950, Ottawa, University of Ottawa Press, 1950, p. 124.
[2] Joseph Tassé, La Vallée de l'Outaouais : sa condition géographique, ses ressources agricoles et industrielles, ses exploitations forestières, ses richesses minérales, ses avantages pour la colonisation et l'immigration, ses canaux et ses chemins de fer, Montréal, Eusèbe Sénécal, imprimeur-éditeur, 1873, p. 54.
[3] " Résolutions importantes ", Le courrier du Canada : journal des intérêts canadiens, January 29, 1878.
[4] Joseph Tassé, op. cit., p. 55.
[5] Lucien Brault, op. cit., p. 125.

Pont Noir pier repairs

The pont Noir stone piers, which are so typical of the period, will undergo some spectacular upgrades. The STO wants to not only strengthen their foundations but also protect their heritage value. Such an infrastructure, which constitutes an essential part of the Rapibus corridor, deserves to be preserved. 

The work on the underwater foundations will be quite a feat. The contractor will install sheet pilings around the piers, after which all the water will be drained to create work sites in the middle of the river. The workers will be able to strengthen the foundations with concrete, install new steel bars, and then rebuild the piers to preserve their original appearance.

In order to meet the environmental criteria and obtain the necessary approvals from Ville de Gatineau, marine construction specialist Construction Polaris CMM Inc. will have to work within a very tight timeframe. The work will be done between July 15 and December 15, 7 days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. In August and September, when the sheet pilings are being installed, the work will extend from 6:30 to 3:30 a.m.

There should be no impact on public transit services given that the work will be done on the piers, not the bridge itself. That being said, one of the bike lanes may be closed. No detour is expected for route 307. There will be a slight lane reduction near the bridge and a concrete barrier on the median. The river will not be blocked at any point, and boats will be able to navigate freely the whole time.

Key phases

  • 2006-2007: full inspection of the bridge and inspection report
  • 2017: underwater inspection of the bridge
  • October 25 to December 18, 2019: call for tenders for a firm specializing in marine structures
  • January 30, 2020: contract awarded to Construction Polaris CMM Inc. for close to $7 M
  • July 6 to 20, 2020: work site preparation and installation of the temporary dock
  • July 15 to December 15, 2020: pont Noir pier repairs

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