I am writing to the National Capital Commission (NCC) board of directors to share the concerns of my community, and I believe, all Ottawa residents regarding the NCC Long-Term Integrated Interprovincial Crossings Plan for Canada’s Capital Region.
The current report is outdated regarding truck and vehicle travel data (relying on 2007 and 2011 data, respectively) and does not capture several elements known about existing crossings (including lifecycle repairs and STO tram crossing impacts within the analysis.) The changing use of an updated Alexandra Bridge and the possibility of an Ottawa-Gatineau transit loop should also be considered in any needs analysis.
We have five interprovincial crossings, and the pressures on these crossings were the focus in 2012, the last time the NCC was tasked to determine where a sixth crossing location should be located.
Yet the decision for a bridge was shelved in June 2013 as it has been shelved in the past. The study did not capture the needs, opportunities, mitigation measures, constructions options, environmental concerns, loss of green space, noise attenuation, and other risks for the National Capital Region. There was, however, an acknowledgement by all the localized and serious issues of heavy trucks on Ottawa’s downtown streets.
Over the years, I have seen the detriments of having logging and a large volume of transport trucks drive, some carrying hazardous material, through the city’s heart and real safety risks because of this traffic.
Large, interprovincial trucks should not use Ottawa’s downtown core and residential communities to connect from Highway 105 or 50 in Quebec to an Ontario 400 series highway.
On the Quebec side, they have the connections to their highways (the 105 and the 50) in place. On Ontario’s side, we are still struggling. The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario has never met its mandate to connect the 400 connections highways to interprovincial crossing within Ottawa and the East Ontario Region.
I believe this is something that the NCC board of directors can help to address.
It is not just one mode of traffic that needs to be reviewed, as this study acknowledges. But the truck traffic that impedes the safety and quality of life for Lowertown and Sandy Hill communities needs to be resolved once and for all. The studies and plans must consider banning truck movement on existing corridors if a sixth option is in place. Alternatively, an additional crossing may not be required if the trucks coming across the Macdonald-Cartier bridge can access the 417 via a tunnel.
There is a lot of history and community disappointment, exhaustion, and a sense of broken promises on these serious issues.
It is not enough to say yes or no to a sixth crossing, be it a bridge or a tunnel. All planning options affecting all crossings should be on the table before a recommended solution is presented to the community.
I am pleased to see that the reviewed strategies include short-term solutions, including looking at interprovincial truck traffic options.
Pedestrian and cycling crossing needs also should be top of mind, and safety audits should be performed in the interim and over time to help define the needs more accurately toward 2050.
Reducing truck movements through Ottawa’s downtown streets should also be accelerated within the next five years, not later.
As this plan does point to our current pandemic and work-from-home shift in 2020 and how this shift has altered how people move between Gatineau and Ottawa, I reiterate that this does not impact the most pressing issue that has not changed throughout the pandemic – the heavy truck traffic. This traffic, as the plan states, will increase. And the extremely negative impacts of having interprovincial trucks going through our downtown streets will continue to exist and impact safety, noise, pollution, the economy (goods), and the economic development of the Rideau Street area. While the local communities are most impacted, the concerns are relevant to all Ottawa residents.
Specifically, when it comes to this study, I would like to see the plan’s objectives include these elements:
- Remove trucks from the downtown core.
Currently, the objective is to evaluate potential solutions – it is time for a finite solution and not endless study.
- Establish and implement a working group comprised of both Ottawa and Gatineau city staff, the federal government and both provincial governments and community stakeholders and conduct a risk, opportunities, needs and challenges scan for each level of government.
For the City of Ottawa’s needs, determine solutions that do not shift the issue to another community but instead resolve the problem of large transport trucks barreling down Rideau and King Edward Avenue.
- Reflect actual, recent origin and destination data, consider pandemic impacts on movements, climate-change objectives for the National Capital Region, and current interprovincial bridges lifecycle impacts on movement.
I request the NCC align this plan with the City of Ottawa’s most recent objectives – with the City’s new Official Plan, its current review of the Transportation Master Plan, and its Climate Change Master Plan.
The current study importantly notes that analysis shows a new crossing would only divert up to 15 per cent of heavy truck traffic from the core. Taken at face value, that removes any/all appetite to consider a new crossing to resolve Ottawa’s heavy trucking issue through downtown streets. It must be clarified that the 15 per cent number of truck diversion does not consider the ability for the City of Ottawa –if a new crossing were in place – to ban truck movements on existing corridors to remain compliant with the Provincial Highway Traffic Act requirements.
Not capturing Ottawa’s challenges, growth, and aspirations minimizes the importance of finding a sustainable solution.
It is unreasonable and counter-productive to propose a sixth crossing that will negatively impact any community within Ottawa or the environment. There may be options that could preserve or enhance greenspace and limit noise if the designers are given the latitude to innovate.
Let’s find a way forward that removes trucks in Ottawa’s downtown, supports interprovincial commerce, better connects Ottawa and Gatineau residents, and makes us proud of living in Canada’s Capital City.