Is it finally time for a downtown truck tunnel?
The province of Ontario is already kicking in $1B for the LRT in Ottawa, so money won’t be easy to find. But we have to find a solution soon because our health—and lives—are at stake.
Clearly, something must be done about truck traffic in Ottawa’s core.
While we understand the need for trucks to get from Gatineau to the Queensway, one only needs to stand at the corner of King Edward Avenue and Rideau Street for a few minutes to see the problem. Even veteran truck drivers shudder at the thought of negotiating that section of their route.
Currently, 26,000 trucks travel daily through Lowertown and Sandy Hill streets—and that number increases by up to 3 percent per year. In 10 years, that will be almost 35,000 trucks per day.
For more years than was probably necessary, there was talk about building a bridge to take truck traffic from Quebec to Highway 417. The hope was to get truck traffic out of the core to reduce noise and air pollution and make it safer for pedestrians. (According to the King Edward Task Force, a group that has long advocated for change, eight people have been killed and dozens more injured in the last 12 years.)
From a local-business perspective, making this area more pedestrian friendly will also result in a better retail environment along Rideau Street, something that has long been a struggle for both the city and the merchants.
While most would like to see fewer trucks downtown, that is not likely to happen anytime soon.
Two years ago, after much debate (to put it nicely) about where the bridge would go and what impact that traffic would have on area neighbourhoods, the province simply pulled the plug.
Now, as cities such as Phoenix and Miami have already done and Seattle is in the middle of doing, Ottawa is considering a truck tunnel. A $750,000 feasibility study is underway and, if that pans out, will be followed by an environmental study and, we are told, “extensive public consultation.” The cost is being shared by the City of Ottawa and the province of Ontario.
With the province already committing over $1B to the LRT project—clearly, its #1 priority—getting more money for a truck tunnel will be a tough sell. But what are the alternatives? More noise and air pollution? More accidents? More lives lost?
It’s time to move forward. Without a solution, the intersection of King Edward Avenue and Rideau Street will continue to make the news far too often, and for all the wrong reasons.
We look forward with anticipation to the results of the feasibility study. But if not the tunnel, then what?
What do you think? Leave your comments below. We eagerly await your opinion!