Lansdowne construction making Holmwood Avenue a “living hell” for residents

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By Laura Armstrong, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — Holmwood Avenue resident Dennis Brock says he and his neighbours are experiencing a sensory torture chamber as near constant construction across the street at Lansdowne Park enters a second year of an estimated four-year project.

"It's horrible, but there's not much we can do. It's noisy, it's dusty, it's intrusive. It's your worst nightmare in terms of living in a neighbourhood," said Brock, who has lived on Holmwood with his wife, Darlene, for 10 years,

About 30 houses are located a street-width away from Lansdowne Park on the stretch of Holmwood east of Bank Street. An approximately three-metre construction hoarding covered in paintings and graffiti has been the only barrier for residents facing the construction site since work began in early June last year.

The hoarding provides no relief for Holmwood residents from a "living hell" of unrelenting noise, dust, vibrations and smells, said Brock's neighbour, Robert Martin. He said he and his partner, Danica Robertson, have been notifying Marco Manconi, the City if Ottawa's manager, design and construction — Lansdowne, about work continuing outside of bylaw-approved hours once or twice a week for six or eight months, but receive only "patronizing, paternalistic pats on the head" in response.

"There are many cases where what the city says and what the contractor does are completely divergent and, it seems at times, the contractors are going ahead with what they need to regardless of noise bylaws," said Martin.

In March, an amendment to the bylaw that deals with the rezoning of Lansdowne Park allowed contractors to continue work on concrete-related activities until 1 a.m. during the week until the project is complete. A limited amount of 24-hour continuous concrete pours during the week were also exempted, left to the discretion of the general manager of infrastructure services Wayne Newell. All other work must be done during regular construction hours, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. If bylaw hours are not obeyed, contractors could face a daily fine of up to $10,000.

Councillor calls for fixes after cyclist killed in cement truck collision

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By Graham Lanktree, Metro Ottawa

An accident that saw a 56-year-old cyclist struck and killed by a cement truck at one of Ottawa's most dangerous intersections Tuesday, has city councillor David Chernushenko calling for a fix.

"An advance green light could help pedestrians and cyclists clear the intersection safely," said Chernushenko the day after the deadly evening rush-hour collision near Billings Bridge at the corner of Bank Street and Riverside Drive.

"We've been hearing for years, if not decades, that pedestrians and cyclists feel very cramped there, it's even a tough place to run a business," said Chernushenko, adding that it's difficult to access some stores because of the high volume of traffic.

"A lot of design changes can be made that could accommodate cyclists and pedestrians without restricting the flow for vehicles," he urged.

The intersection is one of the city's most accident prone when it comes to motorist-cyclist collisions.

"The area with most collisions is in the space between Billings and the transit way," said Alex deVries, vice president of Ottawa's Citizens for Safe Cycling. Between 2009 and 2010, deVries said, Ottawa Police Service numbers show nine motorist-cyclist collisions there.

"There are so many drivers that are turning and cyclists going through that it winds up as a perfect storm for collisions," he said.

But while deVries stopped short of advocating for the advanced green, he said there are other things the city can do, such as creating a cross ride which extends bike lanes through the intersection.

Chernushenko also recommended repairs to the road surface leading up to the Billings Bridge mall, extending repaving on the bridge that saw cycling lanes clearly marked with chevrons on the road.

"The idea of a more complete street, a safer street is something we need to put into all of our streets," said Chernushenko, who released the documentary Bike City, Great City advocating cycling infrastructure this spring.

After cyclist Krysa Johnson was struck and killed on Bronson Avenue in October, he pushed for better cycling infrastructure on the road with a lane marked off by vertical polls. After it was installed this spring, he said he received positive feedback and noted that this is only the first of a three phase change to the road.

Rebuilding Bank St. using the "complete street" philosophy that mixes pedestrian, cycling and automobile infrastructure is the best solution, Chernushenko said proposing a cantilevered lane on the outside of Billings Bridge, which would be at least five to 10 years away

"There's no space in that block to create a proper bike lane," he said. "Right now your eyes need to be looking in 17 directions at once."

Cyclist’s death points to larger problems on Bank Street

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By Drake Fenton and Derek Spalding, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — A section of Bank Street, including the Billings Bridge, is in desperate need of improvements for pedestrian and cyclist safety, says Capital ward Coun. David Chernushenko.

He raised his concerns Wednesday after a 56-year-old woman on a bicycle was killed Tuesday when she was run over by a cement truck near Riverside Drive just after 6 p.m.

Ottawa police say the driver of the Lafarge cement truck was driving south on Bank and made a right hand turn onto Riverside when the woman was struck. According to a spokesman with the police collision investigation unit, it was still "too early to tell" Wednesday evening whether charges would be laid, and police were asking for any witnesses to step forward to aid the investigation.

For Chernushenko, such accidents epitomize the need for improvement along Bank. With the high volume of pedestrian, cyclist and vehicle traffic and the outdated design of the roads and the bridge, he said, it's a problem area in Ottawa.

"It's certainly an area where a lot of people don't feel safe because there's so much going on, especially at high speed," he said. "It definitely needs improvement.

"I don't think you'd get any user, whether in a car, walking or on a bike, to say it's great just as it is."

Alex DeVries of Citizens for Safe Cycling agreed. He said that because cyclists have little space of their own, drivers cannot predict where they'll be.

Although he said "that intersection suffers the same problem as many others," he noted that the stretch of Bank Street between Riverside Drive and the Transitway clocked the most collisions in 2009-2010, according to the Developing Ottawa Wiki. Newer information isn't available, but DeVries said he would be surprised if that number had decreased as it so outpaced collisions in other areas.

Chernushenko said the city has long-term plans to either replace or improve Billings Bridge, but that is still about eight to 10 years away. This section of Bank Street is also set for an overhaul, but that plan, too, is not scheduled for several years.

The bridge alone needs to be widened to include segregated bike and pedestrian lanes, Chernushenko said. Because of the narrow roadway, cyclist tend to use the existing walkway on either side of the bridge, which can be dangerous when southbound traffic on Bank turns right onto Riverside.

A driver can be looking for cyclists on the road and be caught off guard when they come off the walkway.

On Wednesday afternoon, Lafarge Canada issued a statement saying the company was taking "every necessary step to establish all of the facts and will co-operate fully with the authorities as they continue their investigation."

The majority of the statement focused on the family of the cyclist.

"We were deeply distressed when we learned of this fatal incident last evening involving a third party contractor working for Lafarge and a cyclist in Ottawa. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are affected by this tragedy, especially with the family members of the cyclist.

"To know that a family has been forever changed by this tragedy is devastating. The loss is heart wrenching, the impact lasting. Today, and for many days to come, our hearts will be with the family and friends as they face the unimaginable."

The email was signed by Al Brown, Lafarge's general manager in the National Capital Region.

Ottawa police said they were not releasing the name of the cyclist at the request of the family.

Bank Street, between Riverdale Drive and Billings Bridge, was closed for nearly three hours Tuesday evening while police investigated.

The investigation continues, and anyone who witnessed the collision is asked to call the Ottawa Police Traffic Collision Investigation Section at 613-236-1222, ext. 2481 or phone Crime Stoppers at 613-233-8477 (TIPS) or toll free at 1-800-222-8477.

With files from Natascia Lypny

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Parking garage as political payoff

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By Bob Plamondon, Ottawa Citizen

You win some and you lose some. That seems to be the justification used by Ottawa city council to spend $9.5 million on a parking garage that the experts say would not normally be built. It's also about $3 million more than the city needs to spend to get the parking spaces that we might need in say, 20 years. You have to wonder how such decisions get made and whether this project is a white elephant in the making.

Building parking garages is not something city hall does very often. Indeed, the bias of council is to do whatever they can to take cars off our roads. That's why they favour intensification in the urban core, are investing heavily in mass transit and are even eliminating lanes on roads to make room for bicycles.

All this makes the decision by council to construct and operate a $9.5-million, multi-level structure on Second Avenue in the Glebe all the more curious. Certainly the lot will not be a money-maker for the city. Revenues are projected to just recover operating costs, with no return to taxpayers on the $9.5 million and no money for major repairs.

The genesis of the Glebe parking lot fiasco goes back to the heated debate over the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park. Some Glebeites opposed the project, arguing it would negatively impact businesses on Bank Street, and would cause traffic and parking problems. In June of 2010, the previous council directed staff to initiate a request-for-proposal process to expand the 49-spot, city-owned surface parking lot at 170 Second Ave., and report to council at each stage of the process.

If anything, given the city's aversion to automobiles, you would think the evidence of need would have to be overwhelming and immediate for the project to get the green light. Based on a consultant's report, staff told councillors that an increase in the number of parking spaces was not needed at present and that the Lansdowne redevelopment would not pose a problem because it came with sufficient on-site parking.

The data showed that the construction of a multi-level parking facility might be warranted in 2031, but only if intensification occurred at the very top end of the forecast. Normally, staff wrote, they would not recommend the construction of the parking garage until the need had been demonstrated and the impact of the Lansdowne development was more fully known.