The Transportation Committee saw a contentious debate over the National Capital Commission (NCC)’s Recommended Corridor for the Interprovincial Crossing (Item 1 on the Agenda) on June 5. The NCC responded to the truck traffic problem along the Waller Street, Rideau Street, and King Edward Avenue corridor with a proposed solution to develop a six lane highway along the Aviation Parkway and connect it to an interprovincial bridge at Kettle Island. However, this proposed solution would only divert approximately 30% of truck traffic, and the added kilometres of roads would discourage citizens from leaving their cars at home. Building a six lane highway that does not properly address the concerns while simultaneously decreasing ridership on sustainable methods of transportation should not be an option, and the citizens of Ottawa agreed.
Over 20 public delegations presented popular arguments that the development of a Kettle Island Bridge will increase traffic, discourage transit ridership, and disperse the truck problem between the downtown core and another community. It is extremely important to eradicate the truck problem due to safety concerns—there are over 90 trucks per hour on Rideau Street between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. in each direction daily, and five to ten thousand people waiting at intersections where the trucks must perform tight 90 degree angle turns. There has been a history of pedestrian injury and deaths along the truck corridor. Mostly everyone at the Committee meeting, Councillors and delegations alike, agreed that the truck traffic problem along the Rideau Street corridor must be solved, but a solution was not determined.
Some Councillors deserve a Thumbs Up for their comments of dissent against developing the new road in light of sustainability. Councillor David Chernushenko reminded Council that new roads undermine Light Rail Transit (LRT) initiatives and active transit as they only encourage car use and congestion. He said that if the issue was up for a decision today, he would not vote for developing this road. Councillor Peter Clark made a point of considering the environmental impacts on the land if a six lane road was built along the Kettle Island Corridor. Councillor Fleury reminded Councillors that in line with the Transportation Master Plan, it is important for the City, NCC, and Council to focus initiatives on cycling lanes and wider sidewalks. Councillors Chernushenko, Clark, and Fleury all receive a Thumbs Up for keeping sustainable development as a priority even when faced with a complicated issue such as the truck traffic problem.
The proposed Kettle Island Bridge corridor is not a progressive or smart solution to the truck traffic problem. The Kettle Island Bridge will increase car traffic and congestion in the East end of Ottawa, decrease transit ridership, and harm the natural environment, all while failing to properly solve the truck problem in downtown. It is not the right solution to develop our City sustainably. Following the Committee meeting, the Interprovincial Bridge Crossing proposed route at Kettle Island was later announced as not approved for funding by the Ontario government, thereby ending the debate. While this is a relief for Ottawans, the truck traffic problem remains.
Instead of proposing alternate routes to travel to Quebec, it may be worthwhile for City representatives to reflect upon London, England’s initiatives to eradicate trucks from the downtown core to decrease noise, pollution, and safety risks. One initiative London practices in the London Lorry Control project. The London Lorry Control project controls the movement of larger trucks during set hours, deterring truck traffic from downtown. While this project limits large truck traffic to overnight (to reduce noise pollution for residents), Ottawa could implement similar restrictions only for the time periods with the highest amount of pedestrian, cyclist, and transit traffic. Another initiative in London intends to promote cleaner air and reduced greenhouse gas emissions with the Low Emission Zone regulation that requires heavily polluting vehicles to become cleaner (or risk being charged). One more initiative is the Congestion Charge where road users (especially diesel trucks) must pay a fee prior to entering the downtown area. This initiative has proven very successful. These innovative projects reduce truck traffic in the downtown core and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the city. If the City of Ottawa implemented similar initiatives, it could use the funds raised by these safer and environmentally friendly initiatives to increase public transit services, retrofit existing roads, and create cycling lanes and better pedestrian networks.
Hopefully in the future the Transportation Committee will be considering sustainable alternatives as the recommended solution to the truck traffic problem such as those implemented in London, rather than debates over the development of additional highways.