Home / 417 ramp closure at Transportation Committee
Today at the City’s Transportation Committee, we received a presentation from Ministry of Transportation (MTO) officials about their planned closure of the eastbound on-ramp that runs from westbound Carling (behind Westgate Shopping Centre). I took that opportunity to again state publicly my opposition to the plan.
That closure, the MTO argues, is required in order to facilitate the Queensway widening planned for between Maitland and Island Park. With the addition of a new travel lane, leaving two ramps open in such a short space would, they consider, constitute a significant safety problem
Since this issue was first raised last summer, I and Councillor Brockington have expended considerable time opposing the closure. As I stated as recently as my February 18 email newsletter, we’re concerned especially about the traffic impacts in the adjoining neighbourhoods. We co-wrote last year to the Transportation Ministry as well as to our MPP to express our strong desire to see that ramp remain open, and have continued lobbying Minister Naqvi.
At Committee today, I re-iterated that opposition.
In the next decades, the near west of Ottawa will see tens of thousands of new residents. Along the Scott-Albert corridor from the escarpment to Churchill, there will be developments including Zibi, on Lebreton Flats, and at Bayview, Tunney’s Pasture and 250 Lanark will eventually all get underway. From Bayview to Dows Lake, the entire O-Train spine will be developed including continued building in the Carling-Preston CDP area. The former Booth Street complex will be intensified. And, we can expect to see continued development along Carling, spurred in part by new as-of-right zoning that permits nine storeys, and the very tall, very dense development proposed for Westgate.
Dealing with the impact of this development, along with the opening of the new Ottawa Hospital at the Sir John Carling site, will be critical to get right from a transportation perspective. To be sure, light rail including both the O-Train and Confederation Lines, as well as bus rapid transit improvements on Carling – and potentially light rail on Carling post-2031 – will help. But, I am not satisfied that the impacts of this development have been well thought through. Both Councillor McKenney and myself have asked the City to undertake a holistic transportation study of the near west end, and that will likely only get underway with a review of the City’s Transportation Master Plan, which will start to see some activity in 2018 and get fully underway in the next term of Council.
Until that TMP is completed, it is premature to begin closing ramps. As many residents are aware, the Civic Hospital neighbourhood is in the queue for an Area Traffic Management study, which is a narrowly focused look at today's problematic traffic. Even if that could be accelerated, we need to do a much wider look at transportation needs in the whole near-west-end of Ottawa.
Complicating matters is that the ramp closure is being done to accommodate a widening to which I am adamantly opposed. As Councillors McKenney and myself wrote to the Province last summer, it is unlikely that the widening will accomplish any significant reduction in travel time for west end commuters, even as it creates induced demand for Queensway travel that partially sabotages the case for LRT upon which so many of the City’s hopes for congestion mitigation are pinned.
My answer to the ramp closure all along has been that, if it is required to facilitate a widening, the public interest would be better served by not widening the Queensway at significant taxpayer expense. The consequences of closing it are likely increased pressures on our already stressed residential neighbourhoods, including on Parkdale Avenue, with impacts foreseen for Iona, Sherwood and Coldrey besides. Answering questions this morning from myself, Councillor Brockington and Councillor Deans, it became clear that many of the potential cut-through scenarios raised by residents have not been fully fleshed out.
While I was able to put this position forward at this morning's meeting, it’s important to note that the MTO presentation was for the information of councillors only. The City is not the decision-maker on this project, and there is no vote to be taken at the City. Councillor Brockington and I have been steadfast in our opposition, and I have raised my concerns about the methodologies employed in the MTO’s traffic study.
This decision will ultimately be made in Queen’s Park. I appreciate the letters from residents, but it is critical that those also be sent to the MTO. That contact information is online at the expansion web site at http://queenswayexpansioneast.com/home/.