Boats trapped by LaSalle Causeway could be freed later this month

Boats trapped by the damaged and closed LaSalle Causeway in Kingston, Ont., may be free again at the end of the month, according to the federal government.

The bridge was damaged during repair work on March 30 and has remained closed since, closing it to traffic and cutting off tour company vessels from the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario.

Officials from Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) said during a press conference on Friday the company hired for $1.7 million to demolish and remove the damaged Bascule bridge is expected to complete the temporary re-enforcement of the damaged bridge element this weekend.

That would allow for the demolition of the bridge's 600-ton counterweight next week, followed by the removal of the counterweight's supporting structures, and later the entire bridge.

Once the bridge is removed, the navigation channel is expected to reopen June 30. Officials from PSPC said finishing the demolishing and removal sooner is a possibility.

Two cruise boats, the Canadian Empress and Island Belle, are seen on May 31, 2024. They remain trapped in Kingston's Inner Harbour on the wrong side of the damaged LaSalle Causeway.
Two cruise boats, the Canadian Empress and Island Belle, are seen on May 31, 2024. They became trapped on the wrong side of the damaged LaSalle Causeway. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

"There is some optimism that we can accelerate that date. Obviously, we are not in a position to commit to a specific date at this time, but we're confident that we're tracking well on that piece," said Stefan Dery, director general of asset and infrastructure management with PSPC.

"This is all going to happen very quickly."

A temporary modular bridge is set to be built to allow vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists to cross. PSPC said it's still working on the details and timeline for that structure.

Shareholders unhappy

The causeway opened over a century ago and is a key crossing between downtown Kingston and the city's eastern suburbs.

Stakeholders who attended Friday's meeting expressed concern over the lack of solid timelines, and how construction might impact marine navigation.

John Ackert of Ontario Waterway Cruises said access to the Rideau Canal through the LaSalle Causeway makes up 40 per cent of the company's business.

"We've already lost four Rideau cruises this year, we have four more starting mid-July and we're hoping we have access," he said.

Other attendees were upset over the lack of a timeline for a pedestrians and vehicles, with one describing the situation as "profoundly disruptive" to the lives of residents.