By Joanne Chianello, Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA — City council may be asked to approve a delay in the contentious reconstruction of Main Street, pushing most of the project's work from 2014 into 2015.
Coun. David Chernushenko, who represents the area, said he can probably live with "a few months' delay," but is adamant that the "complete street" design for Main must move ahead.
The Capital Ward councillor, who's a huge advocate for walking and cycling, characterizes the vote on the project as "my most important of this term of council." He spent the last week or so talking to councillors about the issue and believes he has the support 15 of his council colleagues.
The complete street concept gives equal consideration to walking, cycling and driving. Among other things, the proposed street design calls for four lanes of traffic to be reduced to two along an 800-metre stretch of Main.
While local residents love the idea, some fear the commute for Ottawa South residents who travel through Main to get downtown during rush hour will be backed up due to to lane reductions. City staff estimate cars may have to wait three extra minutes during peak periods.
The issue resulted in one of the most contentious committee meetings in recent memory.
Now it appears that council will be asked Wednesday to approve the project, but instead of building it next year, most of the construction would be completed in 2015.
The reason remains unclear.
Chernushenko said he was told that 2014 "was always going to be tight when we realized we had to do an environmental assessment." If the project has to be completed the following year, he's prepared to consider that, he said.
However, in a memo to councillors early Tuesday, city deputy manager Nancy Schepers provided information on costs of the various options for reconstructing Main Street that had been requested at the committee level. (Interestingly, building a "complete street" with sidewalks and bike lanes was cheaper than a conventional street, but could require more money for ongong maintenance.)
Nowhere in her memo did Schepers allude to the fact the project could be delayed.
Pushing the project into 2015 does carry a political risk: there will be a new term of council by then, and those future representatives could potentially delay, make changes to or cancel the project.
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