Queensway plan slammed as ‘poor judgment’

By Julie Afelskie

The province’s proposed plan to widen the Queensway has outraged many Centretown residents who say the expansion will destroy their neighbourhood.

“Why does the province only want to give money to the city when it involves ripping our city apart?” asks Centretown resident Judy Girard.

“There’s no money for hospitals, no money for schools, there are people dying in our streets, but somehow there’s money for eight lanes of asphalt.”

The expansion of Ottawa’s main traffic corridor, from Highway 416 to Anderson Road would improve “traffic flow and safety,” says Ministry of Transportation spokesman Bob Nichols.

The plan would add a lane of traffic in each direction widening the existing six lanes to eight. A fully paved right-hand-lane shoulder is also a possibility.

“We’re examining a range of highway improvements to enhance mobility for people in the city, to reduce traffic congestion, and to sustain economic prosperity,” says Nichols.

He adds the ministry has begun consultation sessions with city officials and residents “to further help us get input and to ensure we get out information as it’s available to all those who are interested.”

The first round of public input sessions is in progress, with more to follow this spring and summer.

But Somerset Ward Coun. Elisabeth Arnold says the province’s consultation process is happening before the city has had a chance to complete its own official planned consultation.

“I’m really concerned that we have these two conflicting processes happening,” says Arnold.

“We need to be working together at both levels of government. We need the provincial government to be putting money into public transit and not ever-widening roads.”

While the city’s goal is to double public transit ridership to relieve traffic congestion, the province is seeking highway expansion.

“The province is mired in the 1960s, and they need to wake up and get with the program,” says Arnold.

“When you widen the Queensway all the way from Kanata through to Orleans, you’re really working against the idea of environmentally sustainable transportation.”

A resident of Metcalfe Street agrees.

“The Queensway is not an isolated ribbon of asphalt,” says Bill Brown, who lives in an apartment building near the Metcalfe exit.

“It goes through our neighbourhoods and affects the environment immensely.”

Brown mostly walks and bikes around the city, and only takes a car when necessary.

“The cities have too much asphalt, and this means lots of salt and other toxins that end up in our rivers. And you’d have to live on a remote island to not know that cars cause air pollution,” he says.

Brown adds that high traffic volume already makes it difficult and dangerous to get around on foot and with the expansion of the Queensway it will only get worse.

“I believe that any enhancement to the Queensway will encourage more people to use it and that will just buy time until it overwhelms itself again,” says Brown.

“There will be no end to this.”

Girard echoes Brown’s concerns.

“My quality of life would be damaged by an expansion of the Queensway,” says Girard. “More cars mean more pollution, more noise, more health problems, and less birds and wildlife.”

Girard says she takes the O-Train every day and finds it to be “pleasant, efficient, cost-effective and environmentally sound.”

“It is poor judgment on the province’s behalf,” says Robert Smythe, representative of the Centretown Citizens’ Community Association.

“There have already been hundreds of homes lost building the Queensway in the first place,” Smythe says.

“Obviously we don’t want to see any homes lost. This kind of transportation planning is a step backwards.”

Anywhere from 15 to 50 homes could be lost under the province’s proposed plan.