The Greenfield, Main, and Hawthorne (GMH) Project: Big Improvements, But Big Problems Still To Be Resolved

John Dance

This summer, the massive four-year Greenfield, Main and Hawthorne (GMH) road construction project will be well underway and it will yield many benefits. Yet the “final design” still has serious shortcomings in the view of many residents who attended a recent public consultation. The thrusts of the project are to separate the storm and sanitary sewers in the northern part of Old Ottawa East where currently they are all in one pipe, to replace very old water mains, and to bring the roadway up to current standards, including making the major routes complete streets.

Three significant design improvements that have been added to the GMH project since the previous consultation a year ago are: both Colonel By Drive/Main Street and Greenfield Avenue/Concord Street North intersections will have fully signalized pedestrian crossings and the hydro wires and their massive poles will disappear from the major roadways.

These improvements have been long sought by the Old Ottawa East (OOE) Community Association and ones that Capital Ward Councillor Shawn Menard spearheaded.

However, the final design for the massive GMH project fails to render the southwest corner of Main and Hawthorne safe for pedestrians and pedestrians. Minor changes have been proposed for the corner, including relocating the pole that reduces the constrained pedestrian space. Nevertheless, the space from the corner of the restaurant to the curb is actually less than the width of the adjoining sidewalks of Main and Hawthorne.

Four years ago, the City’s Main Street Safety Audit described the risks to safety at the southwest corner of Main Street and Hawthorne Avenue as “extreme” but the new design for the corner still provides no additional space for pedestrians and cyclists. Image by City of Ottawa

Four years ago, the City’s Main Street Safety Audit described the risks to safety at the southwest corner of Main Street and Hawthorne Avenue as “extreme” but the new design for the corner still provides no additional space for pedestrians and cyclists. Image by City of Ottawa

“As someone who does daycare pick-up with three children aged seven and under (and sometimes our puppy!), this corner is terrifying,” OOE resident Brenda Duke commented on the OOE Grapevine Facebook site. “In fact, if we aren’t in a rush, we avoid it altogether as we’ve had a close call there once before.”

Four years ago, the City’s Main Street Safety Audit deemed the risks to the safety of the corner to be “extreme” yet the new design doesn’t deal with the fundamental problem of pedestrians and cyclists needing more space. In the intervening period, the Province of Ontario bought the private lands on the opposite side of Hawthorne.

Residents argue that the City should negotiate with the province to acquire a metre or two of this land so that the roadway could be correspondingly shifted to create space for pedestrians and cyclists. When asked why this wasn’t being done, City staff responded there isn’t enough time to negotiate a land deal with the province.

A related problem with the new design is that it still does not provide for dedicated southbound cycling lanes on Main Street between Harvey and Graham streets, whereas the rest of Main Street will have cycling lanes at the end of construction. City staff responded, “[T] he Main Street Reconstruction project limits do not extend south of Hawthorne Avenue,[so] Transportation Planning has initiated a separate review to assess the feasibility of adding a southbound cycling facility to connect with Graham Avenue.”

Like the situation with the dangerous southwest corner of Main and Hawthorne, if the City simply acquired a metre or so of provincial land then a southbound cycling track could be built from Harvey to Hawthorne, a section of the roadway within the defined project limits.

In the new plan, the protected bike lanes for southbound cyclists on Main Street north of Greenfield and on Greenfield east of Concord have disappeared (they’ll simply be “lined” lanes), a development that will not be welcomed by cyclists. Also, residents in the northern part of Old Ottawa East are concerned about the lengthy detours that are proposed during construction. And residents have asked why there won’t be a left turn from Main onto Colonel By now that the intersection is going to be fully signalized.

Work on the project began last year and this summer it will ramp up with a focus on Hawthorne between Colonel By and Main; Colonel By and Echo just south of Hawthorne; and Old Greenfield and the northern end of Greenfield. The signalized crossing of Colonel By at Main will also be finished this summer.

Next year will see the most intense construction with Main north of Hawthorne, Concord North, most of Greenfield, and Echo between Main and Concord being reconstructed. In 2024,work on Harvey west of Main and Echosouth of Main will complete the project.

For more details on the GMH Project, go to: https://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-engagement/projects/greenfieldavenue-main-street-hawthorne-avenueet-al-reconstruction-project

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