Community Newspaper Columns

Councillor Chernushenko writes a regular columns for the local community newspapers OSCAR, the Glebe Report, The Mainstreeter, the Heron Park Herald and the Riverview Park Review.

Transportation Master Plan moves in the right direction

November 2013

On October 10, the City of Ottawa publicly released its Transportation Master Plan (TMP), Cycling Plan and Pedestrian Plan. Like many people, I hoped these documents — and the mayor’s speech that opened the day — would signal an important change in strategic direction and spending priorities. I was looking for a substantial shift in favour of public transit, walking and cycling, and a significant move away from car-centric planning and spending.

To some degree, that’s what we got, although the shift is subtle. Yes, the City has made a major commitment to expanding the light rail system faster and further, and cycling and walking have been granted greater prominence. But actual spending on traditional road projects will not be significantly downgraded.

Still, I shouldn’t be overly critical, as tempting as that is when I think of how many roads are to be built and/or expanded under the TMP.

The City now has a more ambitious goal to increase non-car commuting to 55% of trips in the morning peak, instead of 50%. Not earth shattering, but it’s a move in the right direction — by which I mean less congestion, pollution and noise, more people choosing active transportation and, with additional Complete Streets, more vibrant and people-friendly roads across the city.

Here’s an overview of other benefits for the city as a whole and for Capital Ward.

The boldest element of the TMP is its commitment to expanding Ottawa’s light rail network much earlier than anticipated, and in three directions at once. As soon as trains are rolling on the first phase of the Confederation Line in 2018, construction would begin on Phase Two. By 2023, residents should be able to travel by rail as far east as Place d’Orleans and as far west as Bayshore, where a new grade separated bus transitway will take them onward to March Road and Carling.

Official plans may not seem exciting, but they’re extremely important

October 2013

It’s an especially busy autumn at City Hall as we prepare to adopt an updated Official Plan (OP), Infrastructure Master Plan, Transportation Master Plan (TMP), Cycling Plan and Pedestrian Plan.

Talk of official plans may make your eyes glaze over, but these documents are very important, and that’s why we revise them every five years. They contain policy directions and lists of priorities that will determine where and how your tax dollars are spent, whether a road is widened or a rail line or bike lane is built, and when critical infrastructure gets repaired or replaced.

Following six months of input from the public a councillors, we got our first view of official drafts in late September, with the TMP delayed until October. Next, Council members will formally review the plans and welcome public delegations at committee meetings at which the plans will be debated and most likely adopted, with or without changes.

Here are a few major issues directly affecting Capital Ward residents:

  • Will there be changes to the OP policy direction that currently promotes intensification? Will it provide specifics on acceptable height and density, and just how much such intensification is going to be promoted around new transit stations (Transit Oriented Development)?
  • Will the TMP go further to promote public transit and active transit as the most efficient and cost-effective ways of moving people and goods? If so, will any major road projects be removed from the TMP or placed on the backburner?
  • Will the proposed footbridge spanning the canal between Fifth and Clegg (currently in the detailed design phase) be listed as a priority project?
  • Will the Cycling Plan and Pedestrian Plan propose new routes or infrastructure for our neighbourhood, to address subpar linkages for walkers and cyclists along our main roads and bridges?

Prevention is cheaper and more effective than a cure

September 2013

In addition to serving on the Transportation and Environment committees, I am a member of the Board of Health and Crime Prevention Ottawa. I see firsthand how a preventive approach is more effective and less expensive than responding to problems that have already occurred.

This applies equally to traffic accidents, environmental damage, emerging diseases or local crime. In that vein, I want to share important information on several fronts.

First, an update on safety at Billings Bridge and Riverside, where a cyclist was hit by a cement truck on July 30. Many people want to know what we can do to prevent future accidents in the notoriously complicated and dangerous area around that intersection.

The City began by examining the condition of the road surface, with the goal of repairing potholes and cracks as soon as possible. This will allow cyclists to keep a straighter line, and remove the need for sudden veering out further into the roadway. We also launched an Operation Safety Review, standard procedure after a fatal accident of any kind.

I’ve asked City staff to evaluate whether advanced signals for cyclists and pedestrians might reduce the risks from motor vehicles turning right. I’m also calling for increased funding from all levels of government for the education of cyclists and motorists alike.

Finally, I’m looking at the timetable for major road reconstruction and bridge repairs to see if we can advance some critical infrastructure work. This might include widening the waiting area for pedestrians and cyclists at several corners, improving sight lines for all road users, and ultimately redesigning the Billings Bridge area with proper, separate sidewalks and bike lanes.

Canal footbridge one step closer to reality

August 2013

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment has announced that a request from a local resident to “bump up” the Rideau Canal footbridge for a higher level of environmental assessment has been dismissed. This means City staff can proceed with the detailed design phase of the bridge.

Throughout this process, the majority of local residents and businesses have voiced support for this new connection between the communities of the Glebe and Old Ottawa East. Planners expect the bridge to be used for approximately 2,500 trips per day, which will result in fewer motorized vehicles crossing the Bank Street and Pretoria bridges.

When combined with the new Complete Street design for Main Street recently approved by City Council, the footbridge will provide cyclists and pedestrians in Capital Ward with a safer and more attractive route across the Canal and onward to destinations in eastern and southern parts of the city.

Now that the design phase is underway, there will be frequent updates posted at Funding for the project has not yet been approved, so that is the next important hurdle. But I am sensing that most members of City Council have come to understand and support this important improvement to Ottawa’s transportation network.