The month of June has been a tumultuous one in terms of activity on the interprovincial bridge project in Ottawa. After announcing their technically preferred corridor selection (Kettle Island) in May 2013 (see below):
- the Province of Ontario announced they would not support a bridge at this location
- the Province of Quebec indicated they would not continue without the involvement of the Province of Ontario
- and the NCC threw in the towel on the whole project after having completed approx 80% of the Phase 2B study.
The relevant authorities on the Ontario side (Madeleine Meilleur, Mauril Belanger, Jim Watson, the Ministry of Transport) are now all stating that the focus must be on solving the truck problem downtown without spreading trucks into other communities, and that other alternatives such as a downtown tunnel to connect the 417 freeway to the Macdonald-Cartier bridge need to be more seriously considered.
May 2013: On May 14th 2013, the NCC announced the decision of their "Evaluation Committee" regarding the "technically preferred corridor" for a new interprovincial bridge in the east end of the NCR. The choice was Kettle Island (via Aviation Parkway-Montee Paiement). Kettle Island was preferred over 2 other corridors under consideration, both of which were located further east. This is basically a re-confirmation of the Phase 1 study which also recommended Kettle Island in 2008. Previous studies in the 1990's had also arrived at similar conclusions.
The CCC was present at all stages of the study and attended the May 14th announcement to the public consultation group which consisted mostly of representatives of community groups that were adjacent to the 3 different east end corridors under evaluation.
Reaction was swift with local politicians at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels for the affected area all declaring that they would not support a bridge at Kettle Island. Reasons given included that these areas were too built up as residential areas to be appropriate for such a corridor and that the proposed bridge was not providing an adequate solution to the volumes of inter-provincial trucks in the downtown.
Trucks in the downtown continues to be a problematic issue. This study had indicated that a bridge at Kettle Island would attract about 1/3 of the trucks from downtown. (Based on projected 2031 interprovincial truck volumes and assuming the new bridge was in place, the expected volume of trucks on Rideau/King Edward Ave to about 2500 trucks per day vs 2600 per day in 2013). Attempts to achieve greater reductions than this by banning interprovincial trucks from Rideau/KingEdward which did not already have a stop along the way in the downtown could result in a decrease to 900 trucks per day meaning a reduction of 1600 additional trucks/day from Rideau/King Edward. However, the study then predicted that these 1600 trucks would redistribute themselves by splitting 66/33 with only 33% preferring to go to the new bridge and the other 66% preferring to shift to the Chaudieres bridge. This would more than double the volume of trucks on that downtown corridor compared to the volumes of trucks experienced there today. To avoid this scenario, attempts by the CCC to convince the NCC and it's study partners to evaluate the economic impact on trucking operations of also banning trucks from the Chaudieres corridor so that all non-local interprovincial trucks would be shifted to a proposed new east end bridge proved to be fruitless.
If east end politicians are not in support of a new bridge at Kettle Island even though several very rigorous and detailed studies over 2 decades have repeatedly confirmed this is the preferred route, then what do they propose to do about the problem of inter-provincial trucks cutting through downtown streets? The study predicted that today's problem of 3600 trucks per day (2600 on Rideau/King Edward and 1000 on Chaudieres) would grow to a problem of 5800 trucks per day by 2031. The CCC will continue to raise the profile of this downtown truck problem and press politicians of all levels to be more proactive at finding a path forward. Further delays in dealing with this truck problem are unacceptable.
The detailed evaluation report which explains the decision making process used to demonstrate why the Kettle I. corridor is the best route is presented in this Final Evaluation Report. The evaluation scored all of the corridors with a weighted evaluation of factors such as transportation, social, cultural, environmental, land-use, cost and economic spin-off effect. The study claimed that even if the weighting factors were varied significantly more towards measuring social and environmental effect that Kettle Island would still score consistently better than the other corridors.
The proposed project costs were updated as 1.1B$. This cost is composed of approximately 50% bridge costs, 25% new road work on the approaches to the bridge and 25% for engineering and contingency. The proposed bridge consists of 2 traffic and 1 dedicated transit lane in each direction. The roadway approaches on both the Ottawa and Gatineau side need to be modified and widened, significant interchange modifications required at the 417 and 50 interchanges, and overpasses would be built when the corridor crosses over Ogilvy Road and Blvd Maloney on the Quebec side.
All project documentation is available at www.ncrcrossings.ca
April 2011: In April 2011 a decision was made at the NCC board meeting on the consultant to be used for Phase 2B of the Inter-provincial Crossings Project. The meeting was not without controversy as only 2 of the 4 qualified engineering firms had submitted a bid. The lowest cost bid was by the firm Roche-NCE which had been the same firm which conducted Phase 1 of the study. This bid was approximately 50% of the cost of the competing bid. As there had been considerable public discontent with Roche-NCE in Phase 1 and partially as a result of this, the board decided to reject the staff's recommendation to select this firm despite it's lower cost bid.
However, considerable confusion ensued after this decision as it was unclear to the board what subsequent steps should then be taken. After a recess for lunch, the board reconvened and according to a point of procedure unanimously voted to reconsider the morning decision. After re-consideration a vote was re-taken and this time the staff recommendation to proceed using Roche-NCE was accepted.
The first meeting of the public consultation group for the Phase 2B of the study is planned for June 2011. Phase 2B is to stretch to late 2013 by which time a decision is to be taken of which of the 3 proposed corridors is to be selected as the location for a new Ottawa River bridge.
Phase 1 of this study concluded in Jan 2009 and recommended that the best location for a new crossing would be Kettle Island, connecting on the Ottawa side via the Aviation Parkway to the 174-417 split intersection. Preliminary estimates of the cost of this bridge and the road works on its approaches was 500m$ (updated in May 2013 to 1.1B$). Negative reaction to this process was swift and another phase of the study was then initiated which re-introduced two of the previously screened-out crossings (about 6km further east down Highway 174). This Phase 2 process is planned to extend from 2009 into 2012 or 2013.
Phase 2 of the study is broken into 2 sub-phases. Phase 2A’s purpose was to consult with communities on what should be the process to be used in phase 2B which will narrow down from the now 3 potential bridge crossing locations to a single preferred location. The reason for Phase 2A is that communities in the east end felt that they had not been given sufficient opportunity to comment on what evaluation criteria were used to make the original Phase 1 evaluation and recommendation.
Phase 2A completed in June 2010 and Phase 2B is planned to run from from early 2011 into 2013. Phase 2B will lead to the choice of a single preferred location and a detailed design of the preferred crossing would then begin in late 2012 and run into 2013. A federal ‘screening’ environmental assessment will be performed for a bridge designed at this crossing.
The stated main purposes for a new crossing are:
· to accommodate forecast increases in auto based travel demand over the next 20-50 year time horizon
· to provide a new route for heavy trucks across the Ottawa River
· to provide a major arterial interconnection between highway 417 in Ottawa and highway 5/50 in Quebec
From the perspective of Ottawa residents, particularly those in downtown communities the major inter-provincial problem to be solved is the use of Nicholas-Rideau-Waller-King Edward streets as a truck route carrying 2600 heavy trucks per day. It has been generally thought that a new east end bridge would lead to a solution to this inter-provincial truck problem. However as the study has progressed it has become unclear to what extent an east end bridge would lead to a solution to the downtown truck problem. In fact the recommendation of Phase 1 of the study was that King Edward should remain open to trucks after a new bridge is built and that given the choice of King Edward and a new east end bridge at Kettle Island that 60% of the inter-provincial truck movements would prefer to remain on the downtown routes to the Macdonald-Cartier and Chaudieres bridges.
By such a measure the primary accomplishment of a new east end bridge would be the addition of a significant amount of incremental capacity for peak period auto travel. It is doubtful that the removal of only 30-40% of the trucks on King Edward / Rideau / Waller will make any appreciable difference in the character of these neighborhoods. Meanwhile, by introducing over 1000 new trucks per day into east end neighborhoods whole new areas of town will experience degradation. The CCC is not a supporter of major road works (1,1B$) focused on the accommodation of peak period auto travel. This would be especially true in this case if this road project failed even to provide a solution to the downtown truck problem.
A detailed overview of the projected movements of truck traffic in 2031 with and without a new bridge at Kettle Island is summarized in the following truck movements memo.
After the public announcement of Kettle Island as the 'technically preferred corridor' on May 14, 2013 the following statements were made by local politicians:
Watson’s comments came in response to the National Capital Commission’s preference for a new interprovincial bridge along the Kettle Island corridor. The bridge is partially an effort to reduce truck congestion in the downtown core — Watson’s against the idea.
“I think what we have to do is look more creatively. Instead of looking at a bridge, we should be looking at the possibility of a truck-only tunnel going off the bridge, under King Edward and coming up at Nicholas at the 417,” Watson said.
“That solves the truck problem in the downtown without hurting another series of neighbourhoods in the east end.”
There’s no estimate on how much that would cost, but Watson said he suspects there could be economies of scale, since drilling equipment will already be in the city over the coming years for the construction of the Confederation Line. The Kettle Island bridge is estimated to cost $1.16 billion.
Coun. Keith Egli, the chair of the city’s transportation committee, said the NCC’s report is due to committee in June. At that point, Egli said, councillors may direct staff to explore the tunnel idea.
May 14th, 2013
Here is what the Honourable Madeleine Meilleur says:
I am very disappointed in the National Capital Commission’s recent recommendation for the east-end bridge. Among other things, it does not address the issue of eliminating truck traffic in the city core.
The building of a bridge between Ottawa and Gatineau has been my priority for many years, but I’ve always maintained that a new bridge should not disrupt established residential neighbourhoods. Any interprovincial bridge needs to get the trucks out of downtown, and any proposal that does not respect the local communities and does not get the trucks out of residential areas is not a solution.
I will continue to fight to protect all residential neighbourhoods and to encourage better public transit to and from the city core, and I will recommend that the Ontario government NOT FUND a bridge at Kettle Island.
Here is what the Honourable Mauril Bélanger adds:
In 1995, I stated publicly that I was against a bridge at Kettle Island, via the Aviation Parkway. I have not changed my mind and I am always against this option because it only spreads a problem: that of heavy trucks in the core of our nation’s capital – but does not solve it.
In the absence of a sound planning of our transportation corridors from the NCC, I add my voice to those who advocate the abandonment of this project and urge the Ontario government not to finance a bridge at Kettle Island.
A key issue at stake in this current study is the relative weighting of the requirements on a new crossing for finding a solution for getting trucks out of downtown vs simply adding new peak hour inter-provincial car based commuting capacity. Because of a bias towards providing new capacity for more autos, other potential solutions such as a downtown bypass tunnel from the existing Macdonald-Cartier bridge to the 417 have been excluded from a full assessment as an alternative. A tunnel of this nature could completely solve the downtown interprovincial truck problem without displacing trucks to other east end communities in Ottawa and Gatineau or adding significant travel costs to goods movement detoured via east end bridges. Such a tunnel could also simultaneously eliminate up to 20,000 cars per day which currently cross the Ottawa River threading through downtown to/from the 417 and eliminate up to 10-12 traffic lights which slow this journey for drivers. It would also provide some increases in peak period auto capacity across the Macdonald-Cartier bridge because currently that bridge is underutilized being constrained by the road approaches to the bridge.
The CCC has been involved and will continue to be involved throughout Phase 2B to press the Study team to call for a better solution to the downtown truck problem and to call for a full and fair assessment of all alternatives including a downtown bypass tunnel.
All reports and information of this study can be found at the study website: www.ncrcrossings.ca
More information on the downtown Ottawa truck problems can be found on the King Edward Avenue Task Force website at:
A group of community associations represented by a coalition called Sustainable Solutions - Solutions durables has formed to unite public participation and influence the outcome of this study. The Sustainable Solutions website has a wealth of detailed information on the shortcomings of the current process and analyzes in some depth the issues related to solving the downtown truck problem.
Other groups have been formed who are opposed to some or all aspects of a potential east end bridge and have created their own websites to explain their positions. Some of these can be found here:
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