Green space saved from parking lot but threatened by roadway

* John Dance is the chair of OOECA

Old Ottawa East’s campaign against the construction of a huge parking lot at the Springhurst-Lees green space was successful.

Now, the bigger challenge will be to stop the ill-conceived four-lane Alta Vista Transportation Corridor (AVTC) from ruining the community.

As a result of leadership from Simcoe Street resident Christine Loth-Bown and the efforts of many other people, the city and the University of Ottawa agreed to locate a new parking lot at the 200 Lees Avenue campus rather than on the green space  just to the west of the Lees Avenue apartment buildings.

The new lot will be less than half the size of what was originally proposed and will be permanent, providing convenient parking for users of the university’s new stadium and playing field.

The proposed AVTC would also use the Springhurst-Lees green space. It would pit city planners, suburban councillors and developers against central communities – particularly Old Ottawa East, Sandy Hill and Riverside Park – that believe taxes should support transit and active transportation rather than additional unnecessary roads.

The campaign against the AVTC started almost 40 years ago. Originally, it was just one of several other proposed arterial roads.

The city cancelled plans for the other roads years ago but AVTC lingered. Despite opposition from a coalition of 11 community associations, city council approved $66 million two years ago to build the roadway’s middle section from Smyth Road to Riverside Drive.

As proposed, the completed roadway would run from the intersection of Walkley and Conroy to the southern end of Nicholas.

The AVTC’s primary purpose is to provide additional vehicular capacity from the southeast and over the Rideau River.

But this need is being addressed through several other major infrastructure investments that were never considered when the AVTC was originally proposed. The enormous capacity of the $2.1 billion light rail transit system, the O-train and its expansion, and the widening of Highway 417 make AVTC expenditures wasteful.

City planners have suggested the AVTC could be a “traditional main street” connecting the Hurdman and Lees transit-oriented developments.

But the reality is the route would still simply dump traffic on to Lees Avenue, Nicholas Street and the Queensway. Ironically, the city wants to have the massive road right through the area where they are promoting transit-oriented development.

Similarly, planners stress the importance of cycling and walking near the Lees LRT station. Yet the AVTC will make Lees Avenue – already bike-unfriendly – much busier and more dangerous.

The world has changed since AVTC was originally dreamed up. Residents throughout the city rely increasingly on transit and active transportation.

AVTC threatens to eliminate much of a significant green space and will dump polluting and congesting cars into our community and on to roads that have little additional capacity.

In short, the route will bring more cars to already congested central streets, just as the LRT system is making it much easier and faster for people to take transit to the city’s centre. The massive project will also isolate residents of the Lees Avenue apartment buildings and waste scarce resources

It is time to resume the “No-AVTC” campaign and convince fellow Ottawans and politicians that the obsolete AVTC must be removed from the Transportation Master Plan now under review. Please join with the Old Ottawa East Community Association in its fight against the proposed highway through our heart.

To read more about the campaign against the AVTC, please visit the “Transportation” tab of www.ottawaeast.ca.

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