Greenfield, Main, Hawthorne – OOE Community Association Urges Need for Delay and Improvements to Massive Roadwork Redesign Project

Barbara Greenberg of Bike Ottawa says the southwest corner of Main and Hawthorne is “incredibly dangerous” for cyclists and pedestrians and should be fixed during the planned reconstruction.  Photo by John Dance

Barbara Greenberg of Bike Ottawa says the southwest corner of Main and Hawthorne is “incredibly dangerous” for cyclists and pedestrians and should be fixed during the planned reconstruction. Photo by John Dance

JOHN DANCE

The $20.6 million reconstructions of roadways and underground services for much of the northern part of Old Ottawa East – known as the Greenfield, Main, Hawthorne (GMH) project – has been delayed by at least a year and the OOE Community Association (OOECA) has requested that it be further delayed until dangerous and inadequate design features are fixed.

“This is the time to get it right,” Tom Scott, OOECA’s transportation chairperson stated at the association’s December meeting. The sentiment was echoed by others at the most recent public advisory committee on the project, as they hammered away at design deficiencies that remain in the City’s plan for the GMH project.

Specifically, five major deficiencies were raised at the advisory committee: failing to reinstall a safe crossing of Colonel By Drive at the northern end of Main Street; inadequately improving the pedestrian crosswalk on Greenfield Avenue; maintaining the unprotected and narrow southwest corner of Main Street and Hawthorne Avenue; maintaining the dangerous southbound gap in the Main Street cycling track between the Queensway and Graham Avenue, and failing to bury the hydro wires on Hawthorne Avenue.

Councillor Shawn Menard has responded to the concerns, all of which were raised at the advisory committee by his advisor Jonathan McLeod, and some progress has been made.

Added Improvements Sought
As outlined by Scott McAnsh in his article in The Mainstreeter a year and a half ago: “There will be changes to the water and sewer infrastructure, and many of the streets will have cycling infrastructure added. The plans include a westbound bike lane on the north side of Hawthorne, cycle tracks on both sides of Greenfield and on Main, and a two-way multi-use path along the east side of Colonel By Drive from Graham Avenue to Hawthorne.” But residents continue to seek additional improvements to address long-standing deficiencies.

As well as wanting to “get it right,” two extenuating factors have also prompted OOECA to ask for a further delay on the project.

First, the provincial Ministry of Transportation (MTO) plans the separate $500 million Queensway bridge replacement project affecting both Hawthorne Avenue and Main Street. To accomplish this work, MTO is purchasing Hawthorne Avenue properties that could, after the bridge replacement project is completed, provide additional space to make long-sought-after safety improvements, including fixing the substandard and unprotected southwest corner of Main and Hawthorne.

The second extenuating factor is the City’s need to defer projects in light of the extraordinary municipal expenditures on the pandemic.

“If someone is looking for a candidate to reduce cash-flow demand by a project deferral until the City gets back on its fiscal feet after COVID, then this [GMH] project should be one to be seriously considered – and then use the time to come up with a more rational design and plan with a better chance of consensus acceptance,” noted Scott in a recent letter to Mayor Jim Watson.

Changed Schedule
Originally, the City’s roadway reconstruction was to have begun last year. According to the new plan, it will begin this summer but, rather than starting with work focused south of the Queensway on the Greenfield area as originally planned, it will begin with sewer, water and road reconstruction on Echo Drive and Colonel By Drive (Immaculata to Graham Avenue); Hawthorne Avenue (Colonel By Drive to Main); and sanitary sewer outlet replacement on Main Street (Hawthorne to Harvey Street).

Next year, the components begun in 2021 will be completed, as will the remaining sewer, water and road reconstruction north of the Queensway on Main Street (Echo Drive to Harvey); full sewer, water and road reconstruction on Greenfield Avenue (Main to King Edward Avenue), and Echo Drive (Queensway to Concord Street North), Concord Street North (Echo Drive to Havelock Street), Montcalm Street (Greenfield to the dead end) and Harvey Street (Echo to Main).

In 2023, the final road and landscaping reinstatements will be completed. In 2025, the Province’s Queensway bridge replacement project could begin and affect the major routes rebuilt during the GMH project.

Colonel By Drive Crossing
Last year, Parks Canada created a safe crossing of Colonel By Drive at the northern end of Main Street, but this was done to allow a cycling detour necessitated by canal wall refurbishment work. When the work was completed the safe crossing was removed and so Colonel By is again “a nightmare to cross,” as one resident remarked.

To this complaint, City staff responded that the City “is exploring opportunities to install an interim crossing as part of this project, similar to the temporary crossing that was used with the canal wall rehabilitation project.”

Responding to this, Councillor Menard has now advised that “(r)ecently we secured provincial and federal funding that should allow for a full and protected crossing at the Main and Colonel By intersection.” So, finally, a permanent safe crossing is on the horizon.

Greenfield Avenue Crossing
Residents requested that there be a speed bump at the twice-destroyed pedestrian crosswalk on Greenfield Avenue and that the speed limit be reduced to 30km/h, but City staff say other improvements would make this crossing safer and because Greenfield is an arterial roadway, it can have neither “vertical deflection” nor a 30km/h speed limit.

In pursuit of this issue, Councillor Menard subsequently met with residents in the Concord Street and Greenfield Avenue area to discuss how to create a better permanent crossing there. “We hope to make progress on this,” says Menard.

Main Street and Hawthorne Avenue Safety
“The Main and Hawthorne intersection, particularly the southwest corner, is a concern for people on bikes, but also from an accessibility perspective, it’s incredibly dangerous,” says Barbara Greenberg, the Bike Ottawa representative on the advisory committee and also a regular user of OOE cycling routes.

The dangerous corner was also highlighted in the 2018 Main Street safety audit that the City conducted. Since that time, Councillor Menard championed flexible stakes installed at the corner to help protect pedestrians, but the stakes are routinely run over and have to be removed for winter snow clearance.

In terms of the “missing cycling links”, City staff responded after the advisory committee meeting that it is not a “feasible option” to remove a lane to accommodate a new southbound cycle track between the Queensway and Graham Avenue because of ensuing traffic flow problems, particularly “intersection blocking”.

Greenberg commented that “intersection blocking” is illegal and that staff are giving priority to illegal driver behaviour rather than to the impacts of the proposed design on more vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians. She says that it’s “(b)ackwards in the approach that should be taken when creating safe streets”.

To address the cycling connectivity and dangerous corner issues, Councillor Menard says, “We are trying to get [MTO] to give us some of this space [on Hawthorne] when they are finished with their project.” In related discussions with MTO, he says “We’ve also inquired about keeping the heritage gas station – to be put back after construction… We have talked to MTO about a different construction type for Hawthorne so that they don’t need to expropriate several buildings that they were originally going to.”

Hawthorne Avenue Wires
The issue of the City is unwilling to bury hydro lines on Hawthorne Avenue continues to thwart the community. Even though the Old Ottawa East secondary plan calls for “undergrounding” on Hawthorne, the City refuses to fund the effort. However, as noted in the June 2020 issue of The Mainstreeter, the wires will be buried on the northern part of Main and on part of Greenfield, so this is a positive development.

Since that time, Mayor Jim Watson celebrated the burying of overhead wires on Elgin Street when it was reconstructed as a complete street. Hawthorne also is to be a complete street, but if the current plan is approved it will be blighted by hydro poles and lines and, as OOE planning expert Paul Goodkey has pointed out, it really will not be complete because there won’t be an eastbound cycling track.

“We have met with Hydro Ottawa about potential burial [of hydro wires] on Hawthorne,” says Menard. “Right now only one pole is set for burial. We are trying to get the other five buried, associated with the new Official Plan which calls for burial on traditional main streets.”

The City has committed to a “public information session” in early 2021 to present the design. As of this writing, however, no details are available.

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