Car space on Main Street to be cut af­ter split vote

‘Com­plete street’ will have wider side­walks and bi­cy­cle lanes

Ottawa Citizen - - CITY - DAVID REEVELY [email protected]­tawaci­ti­ ot­tawaci­ti­ greaterot­tawa

Ot­tawa’s ur­ban and sub­ur­ban city coun­cil­lors get along bet­ter than they used to, but there’s noth­ing to di­vide them like a vote that pits driv­ers against cy­clists and pedes­tri­ans.

On Wed­nes­day, the ar­gu­ment was over Main Street — specif­i­cally, 800 me­tres of the artery through Old Ot­tawa East that the city’s trans­porta­tion plan­ners want to cut from four mo­tor lanes to two, us­ing the ex­tra space for wider side­walks and ded­i­cated bike tracks in a pro­ject to turn it into a “com­plete street.”

The plan­ners say freely that the change, to be car­ried out in the next cou­ple of years when cen­tury-old pipes un­der Main are re­placed, will slow car com­muters down at peak times, when 1,200 ve­hi­cles an hour try to squeeze through a new road de­signed to only fit 900 in that time. It’ll ex­tend trips through Main by three min­utes, they say.

“I don’t want an as­sump­tion, ever, that com­plete streets of this kind ... are go­ing to be any time in the fu­ture in the sub­ur­ban area,” de­clared Bar­rhaven Coun. Jan Harder.

Like it or not, she scolded ur­ban coun­cil­lors, many peo­ple’s daily sched­ules de­pend on cars and it’s folly to hold them back.

Coun. David Ch­er­nushenko, who rep­re­sents the area, said no­body will lose more than lo­cal res­i­dents if the changes pro­duce grid­lock. In­stead, they’re sup­posed to make bik­ing and walk­ing a lot eas­ier and more at­trac­tive than driv­ing, cut the speed­ing that’s ram­pant out­side rush hour, and re­vi­tal­ize the neigh­bour­hood.

“A whole lot of oth­ers will now see Main Street as a place to go,” Ch­er­nushenko said. The truth is that ev­ery­one wants traf­fic in their own per­sonal neigh­bour­hood slowed down, and it’s not fair to ask Old Ot­tawa East to suf­fer so res­i­dents of south Ot­tawa can zip in and out of down­town three min­utes faster, he said.

Diane Deans, who rep­re­sents many of those peo­ple in her Glouces­ter-South­gate Ward and pre­vi­ously ac­cused city staff of ly­ing about the num­ber of cars on Main Street at peak times, said she worries that hav­ing buses on a nar­rower Main Street will slow driv­ers even more. That’s a pos­si­bil­ity, said trans­porta­tion plan­ning con­sul­tant Ron Clarke, but whether and how to in­clude ar­eas for buses to pull out of traf­fic is a mat­ter for a de­tailed de­sign stage that’s to be­gin next month.

It’s pre­ma­ture to widen side­walks and add bike lanes to Main be­fore more Ot­tawans are walk­ing and bik­ing places, as the city hopes they will, Deans ar­gued. When peo­ple no­tice the nar­row­ing, “that’s when they’re go­ing to be en­gaged and that’s when they’re go­ing to be sur­prised,” she said.

If noth­ing else, she hopes the Main Street de­ci­sion will speed the con­struc­tion of a park­way through Alta Vista, a pro­ject that’s been on the books for decades but never com­pleted, partly be­cause of

‘I don’t want an as­sump­tion, ever, that com­plete streets of this kind ... are go­ing to be any time in the fu­ture in the sub­ur­ban area.’


Bar­rhaven coun­cil­lor

in­tense com­mu­nity op­po­si­tion, but that would pro­vide driv­ers an al­ter­na­tive to Main.

Deans was joined by sub­ur­ban and ru­ral coun­cil­lors Harder, Scott Mof­fatt, Stephen Blais, Steve Des­roches and Al­lan Hub­ley on the los­ing side of an 18-6 vote in favour of the plan. Main Street’s re­con­struc­tion is sup­posed to be fin­ished by 2016.

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