LRT delay extends ramp and pathway closures

By John Dance

   The recently announced delay in the completion of the new Light Rail Transit line means an extended closure of both the 417 eastbound on-ramp at Lees Avenue and the pathways on the Rideau River LRT bridge, just east of the Lees apartment buildings.

   Originally the Rideau Transit Group (RTG), the consortium responsible for constructing the LRT, planned to complete the new Confederation Line by May 2018. But various factors, including the massive sinkhole on Rideau Street, have led to an indefinite delay.

   Before this new delay was announced, Steve Cripps, Director, O-Train Construction said the re-opening of the eastbound access to the Queensway couldn’t happen until the LRT was fully operational and until the new Queensway lanes had been converted from “busonly” use to regular vehicle usage.

After two years of construction activity the pathway is open under the LRT Rideau River bridge but the pathways on the bridge remain indefinitely closed just like the Lees Avenue on-ramp to the eastbound Queensway.  Photo by John Dance

After two years of construction activity the pathway is open under the LRT Rideau River bridge but the pathways on the bridge remain indefinitely closed just like the Lees Avenue on-ramp to the eastbound Queensway. Photo by John Dance

   “Access to eastbound Queensway will remain impossible for as long as the ramp and outer lane is a dedicated bus lane and cannot have private vehicles mixed in — just as with any other dedicated lane of this kind,” said Capital Ward Councillor David Chernushenko. “Until the rail is open, the buses can’t be removed and therefore the on-ramp cannot be reopened. Frustrating, but a reality.”

   Similarly, there has been no target set for opening the pathways that run along the LRT bridge over the Rideau River, connecting the Rideau River Western and Eastern Pathways.

   “The continued closure makes very little sense,” says Kris Nanda, president of the Riverview Park Community Association. The group’s area extends from the river to St. Laurent Blvd between the VIA rail lines and Smyth Road. Before the bridge’s closure, many Riverview Park residents used the LRT bridge for commuting and recreation.

   “The possible – though unlikely – convenience for the LRT contractor should not come at the expense of the continued daily inconvenience to taxpaying pedestrians and cyclists who would otherwise use Hurdman [Rideau River] LRT Bridge,” said Nanda

   “The pathway remains closed because it is still part of the active construction zone, and is used by RTG to access the guideway and to transport materials between their work areas on either side of the river,” Cripps said. “As such, there may still be construction equipment travelling across the Rideau River Bridge and RTG is not able to reopen the pathway at this time. The City continues to review with RTG the potential for the early opening of project elements, including the Rideau River Bridge pathways, once they are no longer required for construction purposes and deemed safe for use.”

   “For many people to whom I have spoken, it seems like the contractor is coming up with excuses to keep the bridge closed – especially since the protective fencing along the LRT and the rails themselves have now been completed,” responded Nanda.

   “I think people would accept the occasional short-term closure of the bridge for LRT contractor purposes if advance notice was given, as was the case when the paths along the river under the Queensway were being reconstructed to accommodate the added lanes on the 417 Bridge,” he said.

   Chernushenko said he’ll continue to push for a speedier resolution to the closures. “It is unfortunate that the required closure for construction and safety purposes is such a prolonged one. I will work to see that it is reopened as soon as this can be done, but without taking unnecessary risks for the public, or compromising the construction of this very important infrastructure project.”

   In the meantime, while pedestrians and cyclists can’t go over the LRT bridge they can go under it. Construction of the section of the Rideau River Western Pathway (RRWP) between the Lees campus of the University of Ottawa and Springhurst Park was finished in December and is open. By the end of the summer, with the completion of the Greystone Village section, the RRWP will run all the way from Sandy Hill’s Strathcona Park to Brantwood Park.

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Filed in: FP, Front Page, News

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