Coalition pushes for improved roadways

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Supporters want 'complete streets' policy included in master plan

By Derek Spalding, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — As the city prepares to unveil its updated transportation master plan this week, a coalition of community organizations wants to ensure cyclists and pedestrians are a top priority when building new roads or upgrading old ones.

Dozens of community groups representing a cross section of Ottawa residents wrote mayor Jim Watson last week urging him and council to include a complete streets policy in the master plan and the city's official plan.

There has already been support from several councillors for the concept, which would compel planners to put more of a focus on pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and the mobility-impaired when designing streets. The informal coalition, led by Ecology Ottawa, wants to keep the momentum going and they hope to see the strategy when the transportation master plan is presented on Wednesday.

"Mostly it's about safety. There are many places in the city that are unsafe," said Trevor Hache of Ecology Ottawa. "It's really important that the policy is applied to the entire city, in both urban and suburban areas."

Discussions about complete streets can often cause problems when the battle for space comes down to the decision to reduce vehicle traffic lanes or not. But Hache said complete streets is not about eliminating vehicles from the road. It's about sharing the space with all modes of transportation and giving residents more choices.

He described many of Ottawa's streets as outright dangerous, citing several examples, including the lengthy Bank Street that runs south from downtown through many neighbourhoods with sections that have several dangerous stretches.

A fatal collision near the Billings Bridge on Bank Street in August highlighted for many people just how unsafe the streets can be.

In that accident, a 56-yearold woman was killed when she was run over by a cement truck.

Capital ward Coun. David Chernushenko said at the time that such accidents illustrate the need for improvements along Bank, which has vastly outdated street designs. He recently made a case for complete streets in a Citizen opinion piece, saying North American cities have been "killing" communities through "car-centric road design" that prioritizes vehicle traffic during rush hour.

"By allocating massive amounts of public space and money to favour just one type of use for one type of user for three hours a day - we're squandering valuable resources," he wrote in June.

Coun. Mathieu Fleury attached his name to an opinion piece in the Citizen on Saturday, calling for a complete streets strategy to be entrenched in the transportation master plan. His focus is more on the downtown and the ByWard Market, saying cycling networks need to be connected and sidewalks need to be widened in many areas.

Like many councillors, he has not seen the transportation master plan, but he anticipates it will include some form of complete streets guidelines or something similar.

Transportation committee chair Coun. Keith Egl said Sunday evening that he cannot comment about the transportation master plan until it is tabled on Wednesday.

Fleury's letter was also written by Liz Bernstein, vicepresident of the Lowertown Community Association, who is also involved with Ecology Ottawa. The environmental watchdog says the campaign to organize support for complete streets in Ottawa began in March.

Thirty groups have joined the campaign and attached their names to the letter sent to Watson. Those groups include the Social Planning Council of Ottawa, Ottawa and District Labour Council, Ontario's Heart and Stroke Foundation, and several student

organizations from Carleton University, St. Paul's University and the University of Ottawa.

About 2,600 signatures of support from individual residents were also collected.

In a news release from Ecology Ottawa, Mark Tremblay, the director of healthy active living and obesity research at CHEO, explains how improved street designs would help solve the "inactivity crisis" seen in most cities.

"Accessible, attractive and appealing pedestrian-and cyclist-friendly streets are an important step in the right direction," he said. "Ottawans and the nation's capital will benefit greatly if our elected officials pass a strong complete streets policy soon," he said.

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Temporary closure of Rideau River multi-use pathway

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City of Ottawa

Starting Monday, October 7, the multi-use pathway along both sides of the Rideau River will be closed in the vicinity of Hurdman Bridge due to construction on Highway 417.

The multi-use pathway along the west side of the Rideau River will be closed for a three week period beginning Monday October 7 at 7 a.m. A marked detour will route pedestrians and cyclists through the University of Ottawa Lees Campus, across the Lees Avenue overpass and then along Robinson Avenue back to the Rideau River multi-use pathway.

The multi-use pathway on the eastern river bank will experience short and intermittent delays during the week of October 7 between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily. On site flag persons will be on hand to direct pedestrians and cyclists.

This closure is part of the Highway 417 Expansion project, which began in May. This project will add an additional lane in each direction, between Nicholas Street and the Split. The additional lane will be used for bus rapid transit during the 2015 to 2018 phase of the Confederation Line construction.

Further project details and other information concerning ongoing City roadwork are available on ottawa.ca.

Eyesore scaffolding at showpiece Glebe condo finally due to disappear

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By David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — Repairs to a troubled condo building on Bank Street near Lansdowne Park should finally be done this fall, and scaffolding that's blocked the sidewalk outside for well over a year taken away, says a member of the building's condo board.

The scaffolding is the last indignity for the chic EcoCité building, which broke new ground for green architecture in Ottawa before its builder went bust and lost control of the project in 2009. The 26-unit building uses geothermal heating and boasted only recycled or sustainable materials.

At least one of which was poorly chosen, according to resident and board member Graeme Cunningham: The faux concrete panels on the face of the building's upper floors.

"One, they're not appropriate for this climate, so they're warping, but they're also poorly fixed. There's a lot of places where they aren't clipped properly or they weren't sealed properly," he said. Corners popped up and an inspector worried they were dangerous.

"The scaffolding's there basically to protect the condo corporation against the liability of the cladding on the side potentially falling off on bystanders, or pedestrians or cyclists or even cars," Cunningham said. It's a nuisance for pedestrians — especially now that the sidewalk on the other side of Bank Street is completely closed for the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park — as well as for residents coming out of the building's garage, and it blocks the view of the Kaleidoscope children's bookstore on the ground floor. All in all, the scaffolding ruins a stretch of Bank that the city government just rebuilt to make it more attractive and better for pedestrians.

The builder's bankruptcy complicated everything enormously, said Cunningham, who works for green-energy company Bullfrog Power. A long argument between the receiver who took control of the unsold units (more than half of them, still) and the provincial home-warranty agency Tarion has kept any work from being done. "The receiver has been reluctant to act on any outstanding needs for the building until Tarion rules on anything they are willing to cover," he said.

Coun. David Chernushenko, who represents the area, said the long wait for action has had him thinking about ways the city could put pressure on everyone involved. "Given how long this has gone on, and the public safety issues of long-term scaffolding, I was prepared to look for ways to apply more pressure by raising the issue of the poor sight lines, and the narrow passage actually prompting some people to use the street on occasion," he said.

But now Tarion has agreed to cover the faulty panels, the work is being tendered, and it should be finished late this fall. With that settled, Cunningham hopes the building will be less intimidating to potential new neighbours, who might be frightened off by the enduring vacancies, the bankrupt builder and the fact owners of brand-new condo units had to put in extra money just to keep new homes they'd already bought.

"The experience in the building is fine. Everything operates perfectly well. It's comfortable. The neighbourhood's great," he said. "By the time Lansdowne opens next summer, everything should be spruced up the way it was always supposed to be."

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Capital Ward Walk

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Bronson Safety Measures and Reconstruction Plans

Friday, 18 October, 10 a.m.

We will walk Bronson Avenue from the Rideau Canal to Carling Avenue to talk about recent safety improvements — and those still still to come — and the future major reconstruction works through the Glebe that are planned for 2016.

Meet on south side of the Bronson Bridge (at the canal), on the east side of Bronson