Kettles versus Ducks

I’m sure if you’ve been keeping an eye on local news at all, you’ve noticed the storm brewing around the latest round of debates over where to build a new bridge across the Ottawa River. If you haven’t, though, here’s a quick primer:

The National Capital Commission (NCC) is looking to build a new bridge across the Ottawa River, with the intent of removing trucks from downtown Ottawa, which currently cross the river using the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge. This means that they usually exit the 417 at Nicholas Avenue, and take it up to Rideau Street on to King Edward Avenue, which leads to the bridge. Needless to say, this has a fairly detrimental effect on those streets, with noise, pollution and congestion all unfortunately prevelant.

With this in mind, the NCC commissioned a study which, last September, recommended Kettle Island as the best site for a new bridge. Naturally, this led to a fight between east end residents, with those living near the site coming out against the plan, suggesting Lower Duck Island as an alternative.

Now, I’m not an expert on bridge construction, but I am a geographer, and when I look at these two sites, I can see some clear advantages in favour of Kettle Island, which I’d like to break down here. (Full disclosure, first of all: I used to live near the Lower Duck site, so I do have some bias, here)


Kettle Island, as it stands, has a solid link with the 417, the Aviation Parkway. The Parkway has a full on\off ramp system at the highway, and is a four-lane, semi-grade separated roadway running almost all the way to the river. It will require some re-working near it’s end point to avoid the Ottawa-Rockcliffe Airport, but overall few changes will likely need to be made.

Lower Duck Island has no such connection. For one thing, it is past the “split”, where highway 174 heads east after the 417’s turn towards the south, an area known for its congestion (though admittedly, there are plans to widen this highway). There is an exit at Montreal Road, but no clear link to the north.  Shefford  Road, not far away, does run towards the river, but is fairly low-capacity and directly abuts a residential area. Light industrial and commercial development, meanwhile, prevents the easy construction of a road from the Montreal Road exit north to the river.

Community Impact

When it comes to Kettle Island, personally, I think a lot of the negative reaction is overblown. The Aviation Parkway is, as mentioned previously, partly seperated from nearby neighborhoods, and is a large enough road to be able to deal with an increase in traffic. Residents near the Parkway, though, will see some increase in traffic noise, and the road will become more congested, but probably not unmanagable so. Care would also need to be taken to ensure that the Aviation Museum was not adversely affected.

Lower Duck, meanwhile, could have a very low impact, I will grant, if the bridge is built to the east of the Rockcliffe Parkway. However, this would require the construction of a new exit from the 174, meaning significant reconstruction would be needed on the highway—likely a prohibitively expensive gesture. As mentioned above, the only other possibility would be a Montreal\Shefford link, which would easily have a much worse impact than the Aviation Parkway. And finally, the increased congestion this bridge would cause on the 174 can’t be ignored, as congestion is already a significant concern for residents of the area.

Environmental Impact

It does almost go without saying that any new bridge will have an environmental affect, but they would likely be markably different between the two sites. At the Kettle Island site, there is, essentially a clear corridor to and from major roadways on either side of the river. The main concern here would be Kettle Island itself, a low-lying, environmental sensitive alluvial island (made up of sediments deposited by the river, in other words). According to Ottawa Riverkeeper, the island is home to a highly unique swamp ecosystem, one which we should definitely make an effort to preserve. From an evironmental perspective, Kettle Island is not ideal, but it is almost certainly better than Lower Duck.

First, should the Montreal\Shefford approach I mentioned be taken, Lower Duck Island would cause similar environmental concerns as Kettle Island. Furthermore, though, even if the bridge were built further east, then the northern end of Grant’s Creek Conservation Area becomes an issue, as it would need to be protected from heavy traffic flows across the river. The final nail in the coffin is the Quebec side of the river, where we find Parc de Baie-McLaurin, a large, marshy bay along the banks of the river. Having a bridge touch down here would be disasterous, to say the least.

I think that these three categories represent the  most important factors in deciding where this new bridge should go. Kettle Island obviously isn’t the perfect choice, but then, no choice is. Rather, I think that Kettle Island is simply the best choice of the available alternatives.

8 Responses to “Kettles versus Ducks”

  1. January 24, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Looks like a “damned if we do, damned if we don’t and damned if we try to find an alternative to being damned” situation to me.

  2. 2 David McClelland
    January 24, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    That, unfortunately, is the long and short of it. Still, we need to find a way to get trucks off of King Edward Avenue, and this seems like the best option, to me.

  3. January 24, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    oh HELL no. you keep your trucks off my Aviation Parkway! its so nice and peaceful. that’s why i drive there. and its FAST. that’s the whole point of it. don’t you dare cram it full of trucks!

  4. 4 David McClelland
    January 24, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Where else do you put them, though? That’s the problem. I mean, right now they’re on King Edward and Rideau, which is very obviously a terrible place, and there are no other suitable connectors in the east end of the city which go between the 417 and the river. There’s nothing else that really makes any sense.

  5. January 25, 2009 at 11:59 am

    hello … you said there’s some daffy duck island. throw the trucks there and then leave them. lol

  6. 6 Al
    November 24, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    A BRIDGE TOO FAR… The Saga Continues…

    If cars on the aviation parkway can already wake me up at rush hour, I would rather not entertain the thought of what truck traffic would do my environment. I always thought the sight of logging trucks barreling through the CBD a very odd sight indeed, but oddity is not something uncommon in urban planning. By the way, where are the trucks coming from anyway? I do not believe the bridge project is a one island or another island solution; rather, the solution should be comprehensive and employ several roots.

    Take Orleans for example: (no you take it) the befit of a new bridge for commerce and residential car traffic is an awe-inspiring possibility for developers and residents as well. Trucks/commerce, coming/going, to/from, Montreal or the Cornwall corridor from the 401 should cross before they get to the Orleans development area and in the east, and Orleans residents visiting the Gatineau, and vice versa, should encroach on the area further to the east of their expansions as well; use Trim road or cross at Masson-Anger, a 7 km jaunt that avoids the downtown. If bridge development is postponed a little longer, Quebec builders will complete highway fifty, and the favored crossing of Montreal-Gatineau bound traffic will become Hawkesbury, which can also use improvement.

    What about those logging trucks in-town? I do not believe any self-respecting trucker would like to travel across Orleans, or even to St-Laurent Street, to get to the mill. Why not build a sawmill in the west, and use the Quebec side to get the pulpwood to the pulp-works downstream! But don’t use the western water; Ottawa does not to want to drink refuse either. No mater how you look at it, (dam, as one fish said to the other), and because the Ottawa River basin around towns is a coveted green space, we all have to suck it up and make concessions. Lets revisit the ruins across the river at the end of Cassels street and make the way back to Aylmer a new reality for our trucking friends, after all, the transit way is almost there and Boulevard De Lucerne and Boulevard Des Allumettières in Quebec could both use a make-over, and so could a route back to highway fifty. The fascination with travel cost dearly, and anyway you look at it will cost more in the future, furthermore, the NCR is not about to get any smaller, but travel times and distances should.


  7. July 2, 2011 at 8:45 am

    And two years onward – 2011! – and we’re still no closer to figuring out a way to cut this particular Gordian knot.

  8. July 2, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Although, to be fair, it looks as if the work on figuring out a useful answer is continuing.


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