Open House All About Getting Around

New traffic lights at Clegg  and Colonel By will help with some traffic concerns expressed at the meeting.

New traffic lights at Clegg and Colonel By will help with some traffic concerns expressed at the meeting.

By Joe Paraskevas

They came in droves to the city’s May 11 open house on Main Street reconstruction.

Many people though, did not want to hear about planned improvements to Old Ottawa East’s major thoroughfare.

There were relatively few questions about the wider sidewalks the new street would have.

Amenities to help cyclists navigate rush hour traffic? That wasn’t the main topic of conversation either.

Most OOE residents came to the last public gathering before construction with one thing on their minds.

“Traffic,” said Josée Vallée, the city’s senior engineer in the Infrastructure Services department.

Vallée, project manager for Main Street Renewal, spent much of the three-hour open house at Saint Paul University surrounded by people wondering what would happen after the city closed a large chunk of Main Street to northbound traffic, May 25.

She said the question she was most asked was simple: how would people make any of the countless daily trips whose destinations required them to use Main Street.

“How do I get from my home to the piano lesson?” Vallée said, giving an example of the kind of mundane travel that promised to become a challenge for residents over the next two years.

The city will shut Main Street to northbound vehicles between Lees Avenue and Clegg Street until August 2016. There will be no northbound traffic between Echo Drive and Greenfield Avenue either.

Northbound traffic will be interrupted between Greenfield and Hawthorne Avenue, June 19.

The stretch between Hawthorne and Lees will remain open to limited traffic in both directions to allow travel to the Transitway at Lees Station.

The southern portion of Main Street between Clegg and Riverdale Avenue will be closed to northbound traffic for about six months, beginning in late 2015 or early next year. Buses will use Marlowe Crescent at that time, a diversion that worries many people on that street.

Re-routing cars, buses, bicycles and anything else that moves hasn’t caused headaches for residents alone.

The city’s traffic and transit authorities have also struggled to solve the challenge of managing flow.

“I would say this is one of the most difficult projects we have had in years,” said Britney McGrath, operation studies officer with the city’s Traffic Services department.

Unlike Bank Street or Bronson Avenue, two arteries that have undergone reconstruction in recent years, Main Street does not have parallel routes nearby that could serve as detours, McGrath added.

“The problem is: we have two rivers,” she said with a smile. “I’d love to have a ferry.”

The city would encourage drivers to use Riverside Drive or Bank Street as alternate northbound routes, McGrath said.

“If you don’t have a destination in the community, we prefer you stay in the arterial system. We’d like you to take the bigger roadways,” she said.

Cyclists who would normally use Main Street to go north would be steered to Echo Drive.

Northbound OC Transpo buses will turn left at Clegg Street, proceed west to Colonel By Drive and use it to go to Pretoria Bridge (bus Number Five) or Lees Station (Bus Number 16).

A temporary bus stop will be set up near the intersection of Clegg and Colonel By and perhaps at Clegg and Main.

“Given the confines of the Old Ottawa East community, we have done our best,” said Daniel Richardson, transit planner for OC Transpo. “Ultimately, there will be trade-offs. We have to look at the big picture.”

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