Car space on Main Street to be cut after split vote
‘Complete street’ will have wider sidewalks and bicycle lanes
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.’
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.