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Ottawa to acquire Quebec Bridge from CN, will spend $1 billion on span over 25 years

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces the purchase of the Quebec Bridge from Canadian National, Wednesday, May 15, 2024 in Quebec City. From left, MP Joel Lightbound, Jean-Yves Duclos, minister of public services and procurement, Trudeau, Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchand and Minister of Transport Pablo Rodriguez. (Jacques Boissinot, The Canadian Press) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces the purchase of the Quebec Bridge from Canadian National, Wednesday, May 15, 2024 in Quebec City. From left, MP Joel Lightbound, Jean-Yves Duclos, minister of public services and procurement, Trudeau, Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchand and Minister of Transport Pablo Rodriguez. (Jacques Boissinot, The Canadian Press)
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The federal government says it has reached a deal with Canadian National Railway Company to acquire the historic Quebec Bridge, following decades of political wrangling over what to do with the century-old span.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Quebec City Wednesday that Ottawa will spend $1 billion over the next 25 years to repair, repaint and maintain the bridge, extending its life for "decades."

"It is a perfectly good bridge that has served for many years," Trudeau said. "There have been concerns about the long-term viability of this bridge, and analyses have shown that with the right ownership and the right level of investments, it can last for decades longer."

The Quebec Bridge stretches 549 metres across the St. Lawrence River, connecting Quebec City with its south shore, and is the longest cantilever bridge in the world. Opened in 1917, the bridge was designated a national historic site in 1995 because of its length and the fact it was the first major bridge in North America made of nickel and steel.

Under the deal, Ottawa paid a symbolic one dollar to acquire the bridge from CN, said Pablo Rodriguez, federal transport minister. And while the federal government will own the bridge, the deal says CN and the Quebec government will retain responsibility and ownership of the rails and roadway on the span, which is crossed by 33,000 vehicles a day.

Federal Procurement Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the provincial and federal governments have been debating for more than 30 years about how to ensure the longevity of the structure.

Trudeau said, "successive governments have all made commitments to purchase this bridge, to secure this bridge for future generations today, this government becomes the one that succeeded in doing that."

The 60,000-tonne bridge was owned by the federal government between 1918 and 1995, when ownership was transferred to CN. Its construction was plagued by tragedy, with a 1907 collapse killing 76 workers and a second accident in 1916 leading to the deaths of 13 people.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2024.

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