Elected representatives join growing opposition to MTO’s plan for Rideau Canal bridge replacement

To reconstruct the Queensway Canal bridge, MTO proposes to detour all Colonel By Drive traffic onto Main and Hawthorne for 90 weeks.

To reconstruct the Queensway Canal bridge, MTO proposes to detour all Colonel By Drive traffic onto Main and Hawthorne for 90 weeks.

John Dance

All three primary elected representatives of local residents have voiced criticism of the Ministry of Transportation Ontario’s (MTO) plan for replacing the Queensway bridge over the Rideau Canal. Furthermore, they are demanding better consultation than what the Ministry has managed so far.

In response to a letter from Old Ottawa East Community Association (OOECA) president Bob Gordon, Councillor Shawn Menard says, “[W]e are not supportive of the new plan that was recently proposed to close both driveways for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers for almost two years during bridge construction. These closures would create serious disruptions and hardships for the nearby communities and for any residents visiting the area.”

“I have been listening to our community about this issue and I’m hearing loud and clear that there are still many concerns that have not been considered by the MTO – particularly, the impacts the extensive detours will have on motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, and businesses in Old Ottawa East,” Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi told The Mainstreeter. “I strongly believe that the MTO must come back to our community in good faith to remedy these outstanding concerns.”

For his part, MPP Joel Harden is planning to meet with the MTO and Menard to seek a less disruptive plan and one that reflects better consultation with the affected communities. Community association representatives will also be invited to the meeting.

Terming the consultation process so far “a farce,” Gordon noted that, “The environmental assessment consultation process began over five years ago but only this past November did communities learn of a significant change in the design and construction strategy, one in which MTO would be recommending such a lengthy period of detours.”

“MTO’s consultants on the project defend the new recommendation on the grounds, among others, that it ‘mitigates the permanent property impacts on 221 Echo Drive and 3/5 Hawthorne Avenue,’” Gordon wrote to local politicians. “However, at no point
were residents and businesses asked whether the mitigation of impacts on two buildings would justify the two-year closures of the two Canal parkways.”

In 2019, the MTO plan for reconstruction of the long, multi- lane bridge that goes over the Rideau Canal and its parkways and pathways, would have required the demolition of the two buildings at and near the northeast corner of Colonel By Drive and Hawthorne Avenue. However, the only substantial detour proposed at the time was simply to shift pedestrian and cycling traffic from the lower to the upper pathways along the Canal.

Three years later, MTO presented its contentious “recommended” plan that required 90-week closures of the parkways and the pathways with their traffic being detoured on the Old Ottawa East side onto Hawthorne and Main Street and, on the west side, onto
Elgin Street and Argyle Avenue.

City staff endorse the new plan but were asked by The Mainstreeter what traffic studies had been done to determine the impacts the detour would have on Main-Hawthorne traffic. The City responded, “The MTO is the lead agency for the project to replace
the Highway 417 bridge over the Rideau Canal…The City’s role in this project is limited to reviewing and providing comments as the Ministry develops traffic management plans that will minimize the impact to all users of the transportation network while ensuring
the work to replace the bridge is done in a safe manner.”

MTO was asked by The Mainstreeter if they had done any Main-Hawthorne traffic studies but two weeks after the question was asked the Ministry still had not responded.

Tom Scott, OOECA’s Director of Transportation and Infrastructure, asked MTO “Why such a long period of continuous closure was required or what other alternatives were available?” And he noted, “If the roadway above can be closed for short periods only during critical construction periods, then why could not the same treatment be made for the community routes below.”

To this MTO responded, “The new bridges must be constructed on temporary piers and abutments (ends of the bridge) that will be in place for the duration of the construction period (90 weeks). The location of the temporary piers and abutments are in line with the permanent piers and abutments to facilitate the glide path from the temporary piers and abutments to the new substructure. The temporary piers are directly within the travel lanes of the two parkways, and they cannot be relocated. In addition, the temporary piers and abutments are one of the first construction activities and must be in place for the entire duration of the Rideau Canal construction phase.”

As explained in previous articles in The Mainstreeter, the Queensway Canal bridge replacement project is part of MTO’s lengthy plan to replace all of the 60-year-old bridges of the midtown and downtown sections of the Queensway. The Rideau Canal bridge is
the most complicated bridge that needs replacement because of its length and location over the heritage-protected Canal.

Although no specific figures have been released, the cost estimate for replacing the Canal bridge was estimated to be $400 million. In
addition to replacing it, the bridges over Metcalfe, Elgin and Main streets will also be replaced. Timing for the project is not yet confirmed, however, the City’s three-year Greenfield, Main, Hawthorne project will be completed beforehand.

One silver lining to the community pushing back on MTO’s plans is that the Ministry has agreed to review the issue of noise barriers for the Queensway through Old Ottawa East. “This is another important issue for residents, and we will continue to work with the province to resolve it,” says Menard.

Filed in: Front Page

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