The O-Train’s A-Coming

"Transparent Passage" by Ottawa artist Amy Thompson will grace Lees station. Image: Amy Thompson

“Transparent Passage” by Ottawa artist Amy Thompson will grace Lees station. Image: Amy Thompson

By John Dance

When Phase 1 of Ottawa’s light rail transit (LRT) system hits the tracks next summer, residents of Old Ottawa East will be able to get downtown in a fraction of the time.

From road closures to transit woes, the O-Train, the city’s largest infrastructure project , has been difficult for many parts of the city.

For Old Ottawa East, LRT construction has forced the closure of the Lees Avenue eastbound access to the Queensway, disrupted bus routes and blocked parts of the pathway network that runs through the eastern portion of the neighbourhood.

However, by the end of October, the Rideau Western Pathway will open under the LRT bridge with a new switchback leading into the now-completed pathway running through the entire University of Ottawa’s Lees campus. Further south of the LRT bridge, the newly paved pathway will end at the corner of Onslow Crescent and Burnham Road in the Brantwood Park neighbourhood.

Steve Cripps, director, O-Train Construction said the re-opening of the eastbound access to the Queensway won’t happen until the O-Train is fully operational and until the new Queensway lanes have been converted from “bus-only” use to regular vehicle usage, which he expects to happen later in 2018.

Once the O-Train is fully operational residents will be able to zip from the newly built Lees station to the central Parliament station in under 10 minutes compared to the 20-30 minutes it currently takes on the transitway buses during rush hour.

According to Cripps, progress on the Lees station continues and will be substantially complete by the end of the year.. The structural steel, tracks and overhead electricity supply cables are complete.

The Lees station design includes an at-grade entry plaza on the south side of the alignment and to the west of Lees Avenue. The entry plaza leads to a central concourse which has stairs and four elevators going to the platforms at rail-level.

”Lees station is designed as a side platform arrangement in order to minimize disruption to existing infrastructure,” the LRT documentation states, referring to the need to maintain the existing groundwater treatment plant required because of the contaminated lands from a former coal gas plant in the vicinity.

A striking new feature of the new station will be the public art installation entitled “Transparent Passage” by Ottawa artist Amy Thompson.

“As I work primarily in collage, I wanted to create a multi-layered piece. I chose to use sculptures of a bird in flight against the westbound retaining wall. In front of this, is a 90-metre long platform made from digitally printed glazing panels. The piece will look different from various viewing angles in and outside of the station,” said Thompson.

“The piece was created to be site specific to Old Ottawa East,” said Thompson. “Once I discovered the station I was working with, I began researching the history of the area. I created a timeline, and instead of using a linear timeline in the piece, I use the layers of the piece to create a more organic timeline. Patterns and symbols are used to depict different eras and aspects of this area.”

More Pathways for Pedestrians Too

Another benefit of the new O-Train line is the creation of a multi-use pathway running parallel to the tracks from Hurdman station on the southeastern side of the Rideau River to the University of Ottawa station, north of Lees station.

Dubbed the “central LRT Pathway” by City cycling officer Robin Bennett, the new route will be part of the emerging Crosstown Bikeway #4 which will run from Blair Road at Bank Street to Laurier Avenue at Waller Street.

“We hope both pathways [Rideau River Western and LRT] will introduce new cycling corridors that cross each other that will encourage a lot of new people to start using their bikes for convenience,” said Bennett. “The travel time between Old Ottawa East and the Main Campus University of Ottawa/LaurierAvenue/downtown will be significantly decreased since there are no stop lights and the route is very direct.”

The City’s O-Train publicity describes the Lees station as “A transit hub in a vibrant and growing community,” and, with all of the transportation improvements and the many large developments underway, the description may be apt.

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Filed in: FP, Front Page, Main Street Renewal

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