Environmental review delays construction
By Lisa Miguez
The region’s plans to build ramps connecting Hunt Club to the Airport Parkway have been stalled by a call for a wider environmental assessment.
The City Centre Community Coalition sent a request to the Ontario Environment Ministry to force the region to conduct a more detailed environmental impact review. The review will cause up to a 66-day delay in the start of construction. This would put the date for the beginning of construction past the Nov. 10 municipal elections. The new council could put a halt to the plans.
Clive Doucet, a candidate in the coming election for Capital Ward, says the application is a way to stall the ramp until after the election, which could lead to a change in council.
Without the delay, the ramp could have been started as early as Oct. 7.
The coalition says the region is cutting corners on its construction that could result in a serious impact on communities along Bronson Avenue.
Members of the coalition are concerned the Hunt Club ramps are only the first step in a plan to convert the Airport Parkway and Bronson Avenue into an urban expressway.
Jim Millar, the region’s director of the engineering division in environment and transportation, says there is no mention of turning Bronson into a major expressway in the region’s Transportation Master Plan.
A study commissioned by the region found traffic on Bronson could increase up to 220 cars per hour in the morning peak hours and 115 at peak time in the afternoon. The study examined the short-term traffic impact of the Hunt Club ramps.
Doucet says this extra traffic can only lead to a break-down in the quality of urban living.
“People really don’t understand the importance of the issue . . . if you have that head of traffic moving downtown, there won’t be a house or residential area that won’t be affected,” he says.
He says the current council lacks balance, favoring suburban interests over urban concerns.
In the meantime, community groups concerned over the impending changes to the Airport Parkway will have a chance to voice their concerns starting in mid-October.
As part of an extended study being performed for the region by MAXGROUP Associates, a steering committee of community representatives will be set up to look at the long range impact of the proposed changes. The committee will also review the earlier study conducted by the group on the short-term traffic impact.
In addition to the Hunt Club ramps, the region approved plans to twin the Airport Parkway, as well as add access ramps at Walkley Road, as part of the 25-year plan approved this July.
The committee will be made up of representatives from communities such as the Glebe, Centretown and Old Ottawa South, representatives from Transport 2000, proponents of a regional light-rail system, and pedestrian and cycling agencies.
Pat Steenberg, a member of the coalition, says the committee will give community groups a chance to convince people there are alternatives to building the road.
“We need to start talking about what is going to happen after. If you expand that road, you’re dead,” she says.
Steenberg says the region should consider more affordable and accessible transit as an option to the construction.
David Gladstone, an executive member of the Centretown Citizens’ Community Association, agrees the region spends too much time making it easier for cars to get around, and not enough looking at other options for the parkway corridor.
He says the corridor would perfectly suit a light rail system on the already existing Canadian Pacific rails.
“I’m very hopeful when we sit down and look at transportation needs in the corridor, light rail will be shown as a viable option, not a cute toy, but a way of saving tens of thousands of dollars.”
The committee will be meeting until the end of November. Findings from the extended study are expected to be presented to the transit committee when it re-convenes after the election.