This edition of Capital Ward News features updates on the preferred design option for the reconstruction of Main Street in Old Ottawa East, the Mutchmor playing field in the Glebe, the O-Train in Heron Park, and traffic disruptions due to the Hwy. 417 expansion and LRT construction. I also want to let everyone know about a special screening of Bike City, Great City, my new film on urban cycling.
Councillor for Capital Ward
Main Street update
Progress on the Main Street Renewal Project continues. The City recently hosted two open houses to present five alternative design plans that range from simply reconstructing the street as it is to completely redesigning it as a "Complete Street":
- Retain the current configuration with four narrow vehicle lanes and off-peak curb-lane parking on both sides
- Four vehicle lanes, including two wide, shared vehicle/cycling lanes, with off-peak curb-lane parking on both sides
- Four lanes plus bike lanes, with no parking
- Two lanes plus turning lanes, bike lanes, and all-day parking in bays in some locations
- Two lanes plus turning lanes at key intersections, segregated bike lanes, with all-day parking in bays in some locations
The project's Working Group, including City staff, community representatives, businesses and landowners, recommended Alternative Design 5 as the Preliminary Preferred Design. The decision was based on the technical evaluation as well as input from various City departments, which determined that the Complete Street option best supports the City's pursuit of a sustainable transportation system under the Official Plan and Transportation Master Plan.
Alternative Design 5 includes a combination of two- and three-lane sections, and features wider sidewalks as well as a cycle track through much of the corridor. The cycle track, together with dedicated bike lanes planned over the McIlraith Bridge and shared lanes north of Lees Ave., will provide a high-quality cycling route along the entire corridor.
This design requires a reduction in roadway capacity for vehicles in some sections of the corridor, but on balance the City considers this an appropriate street design choice that will encourage active modes of transportation.
Lane reductions are being considered only in the section between Evelyn Ave. and the McIlraith Bridge. Turning lanes will help with traffic flow, and four lanes will be maintained across the McIlraith Bridge and in the north section through Lees Ave. and Hawthorne Ave., where turning cars currently create much of the congestion during peak periods.
The design will be considered at Transportation Committee on July 5 and, if endorsed, will then go to City Council for final approval, possibly on July 17.
Mutchmor playing field
Many of you have written to my office to express your concerns over the potential paving of the Mutchmor Public School playing field to provide parking for teachers. I share your concerns and for the past few months I have been working with the school trustees, the Glebe Community Association and our MPP, Yasir Naqvi, to find an alternative that would preserve scarce recreational space in this community.
To everyone's great relief, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) announced recently that this possibility is no longer being considered. While this is comforting news, we will still have to be vigilant to ensure that this option does not end up back on the table.
It is important to note that the City is not imposing these parking requirements on the school board, and has no responsibility to provide parking for schools. The decision to provide parking rests entirely with the OCDSB.
I have nonetheless worked with City staff to find a way to meet the teachers' needs. Although planning for a parking garage between Second and Third Avenues is still in the early stages, this is one of the potential options being considered.
It is the City's formal policy to discourage private vehicle commuting, and to encourage active transportation and use of public transit. One manifestation of that policy is that the City does not generally offer long-term parking spaces at its lots. While wary of undermining this City objective, I have convinced senior staff to agree to an extraordinary exception by offering to lease spaces to the OCDSB during school hours and only during the school year.
Thank you to everyone who has worked hard to ensure that the field remains available to our children.
There is good news for residents of Heron Park who live near the O-Train tracks. The new passing track is now being constructed on the west side of the existing track, further away from homes than originally planned. City of Ottawa staff are also refining the location and design of a barrier to mitigate the additional noise and vibrations from expanded O-Train service. Community input was received and a preferred location chosen at a June 24 open house.
There's also good news for everyone who uses the Brookfield multiuse pathway. The City's Rail Implementation Office has found a way to eliminate the level crossing — and the loud bell! — at Brookfield Rd. and Junction Ave. They are building a passage under the tracks a bit to the north, which will make it easier to access not only the Brookfield pathway, but also the Sawmill Creek pathway once it is extended north of Walkley.
New sidewalk for Heron Park
The 2013 budget included funding for a new sidewalk on the south side of Brookfield Ave. in Heron Park. The project was approved by City Council, following community consultation, before I was elected in 2010. Still, I have heard from some residents who question the need for this "new" sidewalk, and who have concerns over loss of trees and parking. Although very sensitive to these concerns, I support the sidewalk's construction for a couple of reasons. One is that it will make the community more walkable. The other is that it provides an excellent opportunity to improve the local cycling infrastructure.
The local community currently lacks proper pedestrian access to a number of key destinations south of Brookfield, including Kaladar Park, École élémentaire catholique Lamoureux and recreational facilities. The new sidewalk will make it easier and safer to walk not only to these destinations, but also to transit, retail and other services on Bank St.
The existing, substandard sidewalk on the north side of Brookfield is of limited use to pedestrians. When the time comes to replace the substandard north sidewalk, it can be transformed into a multiuse pathway to connect the existing Brookfield pathway with Bank St.
I will hold an on-site meeting at 824 Brookfield Road on Thursday, July 4, from 5 to 6 p.m., to give residents an opportunity to discuss the proposal and present their concerns to City staff and to me.
LRT construction causing disruptions on Hwy. 417
Highway 417 is being expanded with an additional lane in each direction between Nicholas St. and the 417/174 Split. The new lanes will be used by buses during construction of the Confederation light rail line from 2015 to 2018.
The work will cause lane reductions on Hwy, 417 eastbound and westbound between Nicholas and the Split until next summer. However, three lanes will be maintained in both directions during peak periods, with some short-term exceptions.
The eastbound Hwy. 417 off-ramp to St. Laurent Blvd. is down to a single lane until fall 2015. The on-ramp from St. Laurent northbound to Hwy. 417 eastbound has been closed permanently.
The City is encouraging residents to be flexible with commuting times, stagger work hours or use other alternative means for travel, such as transit, walking, cycling or carpooling.
Bike City, Great City
There will be a special screening of my new film Bike City, Great City at the Mayfair Theatre on July 10 at 7 p.m. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion on Going for Gold — Sharing the Road in Ottawa, featuring Citizens for Safe Cycling, the Canadian Automobile Association and the Enviro Centre.
I know this is a subject of interest to many residents of Capital Ward who regularly remind me of their desire to take more of their daily trips by bicycle, but want better cycling infrastructure and safer conditions.
See the trailer and find more information at bikecitythemovie.ca.