Posts Tagged ‘news and comment


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.


Clive Doucet calls out Mayor on transit strike

I may not agree with everything Clive Doucet says or does, but I’m entirely in agreement with him on the issue of the strike, and I’ll always respect his willingness to speak out. In an article in the Citizen, Doucet is quoted saying that “[City Council] screwed up. We need to get going with Plan B. Plan A is not working.”

He also notes that he feels Larry O’Brien deceived City Council into thinking that scheduling was not as big an issue to union members as it is in reality.

This may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, if other Councillors follow Doucet’s lead. If that should happen, we’re likely to see the city come back to the negotiating table with a lot more flexibility on the scheduling issue, which might be the fastest way to end this strike. At this point, we can only hope.


Light rail on Carling, redux

As reported by Transit Ottawa, there will be no Environmental Assessment (EA) on Carling Avenue’s suitability for light rail, at least not yet.

I know I’ve come out against the Carling LRT proposal before, but after seeing the full proposal and giving it some due consideration, I’m starting to lean towards it being a good idea. I’m not 100% convinced yet, and I definitely think there would be concerns that would need to be addressed before it goes ahead, but does that mean it’s a bad idea to do an EA?

EA’s are not terribly expensive, all things considered, and when we’re talking about starting work on a project that will cost the City of Ottawa at least four billion dollars over the next twenty years, we should at least look in to every possible option. The idea of running rail along Byron Avenue was also floated (and summarily shot down, as well) which is another excellent possibility. It’s maybe not quite as well-suited for light rail as Carling, but it would connect up well with both Dominion station and Lincoln Fields station and once more, should we not just consider it? An EA doesn’t lock us into doing either option, but does give us the information we need to make an informed decision.

And informed decisions are something we’re sorely lacking in this town, sometimes.


Subdvisions, the southwestern frontier

First of all, welcome to any and all new readers who came here through the link in Ottawa Start! Glad to see you here, and I hope some of you stick around.

Today, I saw a piece in the Citizen about a developer from Calgary proposing to build a major new residential development between Barrhaven and Stittsville in southwest Ottawa. Here’s a map, to illustrate:

Long-term plans

Blue: Immediate development, Orange: Long-term plans

Just a note about that image, it’s not official in the slightest, I made it myself. The short-term plans I’m fairly sure of, based on the Citizen’s description, but the long-term plans are nearly a complete guess. It’s what made sense to me, based upon the existing road network in that part of Ottawa.

Back to topic, I thought most of the points made in the article made sense, especially the “Live, work, play” notes. This is something I see attached to suburban developments, but what they don’t usually tell you is that the emphasis is on “live”. If you want to work or play, you’re probably going to have to start commuting.

What I’m sitting here asking myself is why we should even consider such a plan? I thought that sprawling new developments were supposed to be becoming a thing of the past, and that even in relatively-conservative Ottawa, we were starting to move towards intensification and sustainable development. I guess that because the price of gas has dropped back down to under $1 per litre, it’s okay to try to go back to outdated theories of suburban development.

Personally, I hope to see this get quashed at Council, but it’s hard to say which way this will go. The City is starting to see that we need to change how we build cities, but these changes occur slowly so who knows which attitude will prevail.

(As an aside, I recommend listening to this in the background to lend this post a proper atmosphere)


Draft Budget

I wrote a column this week on the proposed increases for user fees at city facilities:
Youth shouldn’t pay for city’s problems

In other news, I also saw this article recently, which stated that City staff have recommended cutting Ottawa’s road construction budget and putting the savings into transit funding. Kind of a daring move, by this city’s standards, but one that would be nice to see pass through. After all, we should be hope that at least some good can come out of this mess of a draft budget.


Transit alternative the first

As I’m sure many of you know, the City of Ottawa officially released four new transit alternatives on Monday. I’ve decided to go through each of them, presenting the highlights and what my opinion on the plan is, starting with the first alternative.

Alternative 1 is about as conservative as you can get for transit planning in Ottawa. It involves creating a downtown tunnel, yes, but that tunnel would be dedicated to continued Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service like the existing Transitway. It also calls for a significant expansion of the existing Transitway, and would not involve rail transit at all, except for the existing 8 km O-Train line.

This plan would cost about $3.2 billion dollars (the cheapest plan to implement) and require an annual operating budget of $485 million the most expensive estimated budget). There would be twin bus-only tunnels running through the downtown core, with a bus required every 14 seconds by 2031.

I think that it’s pretty obvious the only real advantage of this plan is the cost. It would be relatively cheap and easy to implement, but the advantages end there. It would lock us into a bus-only transit system almost permanently, and I can’t imagine that a bus-only tunnel would be a very pleasant place; you only need to catch a bus at Saint-Laurent to know that. It would be pretty short-sighted of City Council to approve this plan, and hopefully the city’s government is smart enough to know that.

Lastly, a map of the proposed new system:

Alternative 1

Source: City of Ottawa, Beyond 2020


I was reading the Ottawa Citizen today, and I came across an article on a proposal for a national portrait gallery at the corner of Metcalfe and Nepean. The area is currently a parking lot.

The proposal calls for a “gallery would be located at the base of two slender 27-storey condo towers that [would] have ‘a certain panache,’ says Nathan Godlovitch, senior architect with Dan S. Hanganu Architects of Montreal,” according to the article. On the surface, this seemed like it should be a good thing, to me. I’m a supporter of mixed-use development, and a 27-storey condo would certainly add some good density to Centretown.

However, as I read on, I realized that there was a significant problem with the proposal: the gallery itself and the streetscape of the building. To paraphrase one of the criticisms quoted in the Citizen, the proposal for the gallery seems to be a homage—if you’re generous, or a rip-off if you’re not—to American architect Daniel Libeskind, known for his jarring, angular buildings, such as the Crystal extension to the Royal Ontario Museum.

While Ottawa could certainly use some more distinctive architecture, I’m not sure that this is the way to go. Having been by the Crystal in Toronto a couple of times, I’m still not sure exactly how I feel about it. It’s certainly impressive, on some level, even imposing, but it’s certainly not friendly or welcoming. While “imposing” might work for the War Museum, it’s definitely not the atmosphere you want to present for a portrait gallery, of all things. Ideally, a building like this should meet the street in a way that is as open and inviting as possible, in a way that makes you want to walk by and not be totally indifferent to what you’re passing. Will it happen? We’ll have to wait and see with this one, I think.


I also wanted to comment briefly on another aspect of the article:

“The current project is unusually high for Ottawa and will require a zoning change. Most of the area has a maximum permitted height of around 12 stories.” (emphasis mine)

This is something that frustrates me about Ottawa, we seem to be scared of height. Since when is 27 stories (probably between 110-120 metres for a condo development) unusually tall for a city with a metropolitan population of 1.2 million people? I honestly think it may be time for this city to start embracing some taller buildings, especially on the south side of downtown. It would provide some nice definition to the skyline, and, if handled properly, I don’t think it would adversely effect the urban landscape.

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This is a blog dedicated to exploring and discussing Ottawa, Canada.



Email: dmccl033(at)uottawa(dot)ca

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