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Wanted: Home for Bridge to Gatineau

By Olivia Crossman on June 20, 2012

Post by Olivia Crossman

Seldom do issues ignite passion in suburban residents like the plan to build a sixth inter-provincial bridge linking Ottawa and Gatineau in the city’s east end.

On the evening of June 12th, large crowds gathered at the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orléans. A public consultation was hosted by the National Capital Commission (NCC) and Roche-GENIVAR Joint Venture as part of Phase 2B of the Interprovincial Crossing Environmental Assessment (EA) Study. The planners are considering public input for the social, cultural, human health, environmental, transportation and economic factors to select a corridor for the bridge.

Dozens of posters lined the walls in the lower lobby illustrating three potential crossing locations. The first, Corridor 5, crosses the Ottawa River at Kettle Island near the Rockcliffe Airport and uses the Aviation Parkway. On the other hand, Corridors 6 and 7 connect to the 174 further east, in Orléans.

Three corridors for new interprovincial bridge under consideration by NCC (National Capital Commission).

The public consultation event was the second of its kind. A week earlier, about 40 people attended a similar open house in Gatineau. Attendance at the Orléans event was not recorded; however, a representative said that they had run out of 1,000 printed comment cards and encouraged others to submit their feedback online before July 5th.

To the dismay of many attendees with “No Bridge” buttons and signs, a six-lane bridge will likely be built, according to the Roche-GENIVAR consultants. The goal is to ease the number of trucks that travel through the downtown core each day, most of which use King Edward and the MacDonald-Cartier Bridge. It is predicted that the bridge will keep downtown truck traffic to its current level (about 2,700 trucks daily); without a bridge, that number would more than double by 2031.

The question then remains: where to build the bridge? In 2008, a technical and environmental study elected Corridor 5 as the preferred route but public pressure by area residents led to reconsideration of other options. Now, the groups of east-end community residents (Rockcliffe, Manor Park, Rothwell Heights, Beacon Hill, and Orléans) have banded together in opposing all three proposed routes.

They argue that the bridge will have a negative impact on residents, hospitals, businesses and schools in the area; it will create a second heavily congested roadway ruining established neighbourhoods, popular bike paths and scenic roadways along the Rockcliffe Parkway and in the Greenbelt. What is more, it is not clear that it will achieve the objective of removing trucks from downtown. Instead, opponents say it will encourage urban sprawl and attract commuters from Gatineau, ultimately increasing congestion on the two-lane 174.

Though he does not have the authority to curtail the project, Mayor Jim Watson has recently said the $500-600 million earmarked for bridge construction would be better spent on extending the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system (which is set to be finished by mid-2018).

For now, it looks like east-end residents will just have to wait and see. In the coming months, the evaluation committee will select the preferred corridor which will be subject to Round 3 of public consultation in the fall. In late winter/early spring 2013, the final round of consultation will assess a preliminary design of the bridge.

Learn more and submit feedback online here.

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