Truck-di­vert­ing tun­nel falls off elec­tion radar screen

PressReader - Tke Channel - Truck-di­vert­ing tun­nel falls off elec­tion radar screen
The next city coun­cil will de­cide how se­ri­ous it is about di­vert­ing most trans­port truck traf­fic off down­town Ot­tawa streets us­ing a truck-di­vert­ing tun­nel be­tween High­way 417 and Gatineau.But a po­ten­tial $2-bil­lion tun­nel with un­known fund­ing sources has made only a rip­ple in the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion cam­paign, leav­ing the de­bate at the com­mu­nity level rather than build­ing a city­wide dis­cus­sion about a such a mas­sive in­fra­struc­ture project.With the elec­tion set for Mon­day, de­bates about large-scale con­struc­tion to this point have cen­tred on ex­pand­ing LRT.The cen­tral-east ward of RideauVanier has the most at stake when it comes to down­town truck traf­fic. A truck route cuts through the Low­er­town com­mu­nity, mak­ing Rideau Street and King Ed­ward Av­enue a pre­car­i­ous travel zone for pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists.Math­ieu Fleury, the in­cum­bent coun­cil­lor in Rideau-Vanier, sup­ports mov­ing for­ward with a ma­jor study on a truck tun­nel.So far, the city has a fin­ished fea­si­bil­ity study that con­firms a tun­nel is pos­si­ble.The ma­jor study would be an en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment, which Fleury said would cost $12 mil­lion. The hope is that all three lev­els of govern­ment would fund the work.Fleury said the city would need to lock down a pre­vi­ously an­tic­i­pated $4 mil­lion from the prov­ince for the study. With a change in govern­ment and the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives keen on cut­ting costs and re­duc­ing the pro­vin­cial deficit, the city could be stonewalled.“We have to re­group in the next few weeks to re­con­firm their com­mit­ments,” Fleury said. The prov­ince has a duty to con­nect 400-series high­ways to in­ter­provin­cial links, he said, so a tun­nel would be a “pro­vin­cial” tun­nel, not a city tun­nel, Fleury said.A truck tun­nel would be a re­place­ment project for an ad­di­tional in­ter­provin­cial bridge. The bridge project was scut­tled in 2013 when the On­tario Lib­eral govern­ment wouldn’t sup­port a new eas­t­end cross­ing at Ket­tle Is­land amid grow­ing con­cerns that truck traf­fic would be di­verted to com­mu­ni­ties east of Ot­tawa’s down­town.Left with the prob­lem of trans­port trucks snaking through down­town Ot­tawa streets, the city suc­ceeded in part­ner­ing with the prov­ince on a fea­si­bil­ity study for a truck tun­nel be­tween High­way 417 and an ex­ist­ing bridge to Gatineau.The most fea­si­ble tun­nel route would have Que­bec-bound trucks exit High­way 417 at the Vanier Park­way and en­ter the tun­nel, which would be un­der Sandy Hill and Low­er­town, and end at the Mac­don­ald-Cartier Bridge, link­ing up with Que­bec’s High­way 5. The study es­ti­mated more than 25,000 ve­hi­cles would use the 3.4-kilo­me­tre tun­nel each day, with 1,700 trucks us­ing it each work day. Un­der the pre­lim­i­nary plan, the tun­nel would be open to reg­u­lar pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles, too.City coun­cil left the de­bate in 2016 with a 21-2 vote ad­vo­cat­ing for an en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment.Other can­di­dates in the RideauVanier ward elec­tion ques­tion if a tun­nel is the ac­tu­ally the an­swer to the truck prob­lem.Ward chal­lenger Thierry Harris said res­i­dents with whom he’s spo­ken don’t be­lieve a tun­nel would be con­structed, even though the pre­lim­i­nary ex­ploratory work is done.“Peo­ple are not con­vinced a tun­nel is a re­al­is­tic op­tion,” Harris said. “They’re skep­ti­cal about politi­cians say­ing it’s go­ing to hap­pen.”Harris said the city should pur­sue traf­fic-calm­ing mea­sures in the down­town cor­ri­dor, but he’s par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in re-open­ing the dis­cus­sion about adding an in­ter­provin­cial bridge be­tween Ot­tawa and Gatineau. He’s also in­ter­ested in ban­ning some trucks from the down­town in­ter­provin­cial cor­ri­dor.Matt Lowe, an­other ward can­di­date, thinks the idea of a truck tun­nel would dis­tract de­ci­sion­mak­ers from larger is­sues in the ward, such as bus ser­vice and the Sal­va­tion Army’s shel­ter re­lo­ca­tion to Vanier. Those are the mat­ters Rideau-Vanier res­i­dents care most about, Lowe said.The ward’s fourth can­di­date, Salar Changiz, couldn’t be reached for com­ment. jwill­[email protected]­ twit­

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