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Another Interprovincial Crossings Study Begins

posted Nov 5, 2020, 9:31 AM by John Verbaas   [ updated Nov 5, 2020, 9:33 AM ]

The NCC has once again been tasked to conduct a Study on the National Capital Region's interprovincial transportation challenges.   The current study appears to have a broader scope than the last 2007-2013 study.  Rather than being focused narrowly on 'where to build a new bridge' the current study is to look at the big picture and to suggest potentially a portfolio of solutions that may include transit, cycling, peak demand management, as well as potential new road infrastructure.  The Study is to have multiple stages of public consultation and wrap up by mid-2021.

This new Study has been preceeded by a Study released in Spring 2020 which 'refreshed' the technical analyses of the 2007-2013 Study.  "Refresh' means to look at what might have changed since then in terms of the natural environment, the transportation network, new buildings, etc that require updates to the 2007-2013 Study.  These changes have been documented and in general the changes were fairly minor.  Link to the Refresh Study.

One thing the 'Refresh Study' did not attempt was to perform any analysis of current interprovincial crossing traffic and congestion levels in order to understand how those might have changed in the past 10 years.  This would seem to be pretty important information needed for any future analysis. 

The first stage of public consultations is focused on the Study's guiding principles and on what evaluation criteria are to be used to evaluate the pros and cons of multiple possible future scenarios.  Further details on this 2020 Interprovincial Crossings Study are available at the NCC website.

City Council Votes to Seek Funding for a Downtown Tunnel EA

posted Sep 16, 2016, 6:15 AM by John Verbaas

The release of the Downtown Tunnel Feasibility Study occurred in Aug 2016 (delayed from Q1 2016). This Study examined several possible routes for a 417 to Macdonald-Cartier bridge tunnel and concluded that a tunnel was technically feasible.  

The recommended route for a tunnel would locate it's southern portal off the Vanier Parkway at Coventry Rd and continue under the Rideau River, East Sandy Hill, East Lowertown with the northern portal at the southern end of the Macdonald-Cartier bridge.  

The proposed tunnel would be 3.4km long, would in fact be 2 separate tunnels (one for each direction of travel), with 2 lanes in each tunnel. The cost was estimated at between 1.7B$ and 2.0B$ (2015$).  It was estimated that if the tunnel existed in 2016 that it would carry approximately 1700 trucks and 20,000-25,000 cars per day.  During the peak afternoon period the car traffic would approach 1400 vehicles per hour and a forecast was made that this would increase to 2500 vehicles per hour by 2031.  Unfortunately the Study did not provide any forecast for how much additional truck traffic the tunnel would carry by 2031.

Ottawa City Council on Sep 14, 2016 voted 21-2 to set aside 2.5m$ in the 2017 budget for a detailed environmental assessment (EA) for this tunnel and comissioned the Mayor to approach the provincial and federal governments to also contribute to the funding of the EA on a 1/3 basis.  The EA process includes significant opportunities for formal public consultations.   It is expected it would take 3-4 years to complete.

The Study and its supporting technical appendices can be downloaded from the City of Ottawa website at this link:

Tunnel Study Results Anticipated Q1 2016

posted Nov 26, 2015, 9:02 AM by John Verbaas   [ updated Nov 26, 2015, 11:44 AM ]

During the past 16 months the global engineering firm Parsons has been progressing the downtown tunnel feasibility study.   The results are expected to be released in early 2016.  The study results will be presented to Ottawa City council for deliberation of potential next steps.

Since this feasibility study was launched both the Ontario and Federal governments have announced their intentions to increase the level of dedicated funding made available for infrastructure investments on road and transit projects.

In the case of the Ontario Government this has been named "Moving Ontario Forward - Outside the GTHA" and the funding level has been set at 15B$ from 2015-2025.  This amount is separate from the 16B$ that has been earmarked specifically for the GTHA itself.

The Harper Federal Government in their 2015-2016 Budget announced the "New Building Canada Fund" which will provide 13B$ nationally for infrastructure projects.

With the Liberal's rising to power in the 2015 Federal Election, a further commitment was made to invest 20B$ in transit over the next 10 years and with this commitment to dedicated funding for transit announced that the funding available under the "New Building Canada Fund" could be used more exclusively for non-transit related projects.

Since 2013 when the Tunnel Feasibility Study was launched, politicians representing the areas affected by the downtown truck problem at the municipal, provincial, and federal level are on the record as saying they are supportive of such a project should the Study indicate its feasibility.

Downtown Truck Tunnel Study RFP Released

posted Apr 29, 2014, 11:09 AM by John Verbaas   [ updated May 6, 2014, 9:05 AM ]

Apr 29, 2014

The City of Ottawa and the Ontario Ministry of Transport have released the RFP for a consultant to perform a feasibility study for a downtown truck tunnel intended to remove interprovincial trucks from King Edward Ave, Rideau St, and Waller.   Bidders are to respond by May 15 and the study is expected to be completed and available to the public in early 2016.  The scope of the technical analysis that will be required is listed on pages 7-13 of this Tunnel Study RFP document.

Separately, representatives of Action Sandy Hill and the King Edward Ave Task Force met with Mayor Jim Watson's office on Apr 24th to outline their concerns/priorities for this study.  A summary of some of the items discussed includes:
  • the RFP for the tunnel study would be posted to MERX within days
  • there will be no opportunities for the public to participate/have input during  the course of the study
  • the possibility exists to ask to meet with the winning consultant if there is an interest in contributing input during the course of the study
  • the study scope will include analysis of options for allowing the tunnel to be used by cars as well
  • the study scope will include an analysis of how to manage trucks carrying dangerous goods
  • multiple tunnel scenarios would be analyzed and a preferred scenario indicated
  • when finished, the study will be released to the public and after a month will go to committee and council
  • if there is a decision to proceed further, the next step would be an environmental assessment (EA)
  • any attempts to perform a cost/benefit analysis or quanitfy the public good would happen later at this EA stage
  • it was asked what challenges there would be to moving forward with a project since the Transportation Master Plan (TMP) 2013 doesn't even have a tunnel on the list of planned infrastructure projects in the next 20yr time horizon.  The response was that if council wanted to make it happen that they could move ahead without having to first update the TMP
  • it is likely they expect it to be a toll tunnel built as a P3
  • the community expressed the opinion that tolls would likely not be able to finance 100% of the cost and the response was that the City will be 'talking this up' with the senior gov'ts to be contributors (the new federal Building Canada Fund was mentioned several times.
  • the mayor reiterated his view that an east end bridge was just not a very good (practical?) idea and that there really wasn't any money available to build it anyways
  • when asked 'what next' if the tunnel study concluded a tunnel wasn't feasible, no one seemed prepared to talk about what the contingency plans were if that was the outcome
 The meeting concluded with a discussion of what could be done in the interim to improve the safety along the current downtown truck route.  Mathieu Fleury indicated he is discussing some options with the contractor who is still on site completing the Rideau street sewer work.  Some of the options discussed included: 
    •  putting bollards on the sidewalks on the 2 sharp right hand turns to help build some barrier against trucks climbing the curb during their turns
    • ways to try to slow the trucks down a bit.  They often wheel around these corners at 20-30km/hr trying to get around before the traffic lights turn.  That is just way too fast for an 18 wheeler on a pedestrian thoroughfare
    • slowing trucks down on the King Edward 'straight aways' was also discussed.  Solving these problems seemed mostly focused on solutions involving getting the police to hand out more tickets and installing a speed board to show vehicle's speeds rather than making changes to the roadway to make it seem less like a 'freeway'
  •  it was suggested we might have to consider restrictions on the double tandem trailer trucks and that the way the corners are engineered right now, those types of trucks may not capable of making the turn without mounting the sidewalk.  It was suggested that the traffic engineering department investigate.
  • lastly it was asked if there could be any discussion on diversifying the truck route by allowing some trucks to use the Vanier Parkway.  There was no commitment to follow-up this item further.

Province of Ontario Co-funds Truck Tunnel Feasibility Study

posted Dec 2, 2013, 1:53 PM by John Verbaas   [ updated Dec 2, 2013, 1:59 PM ]

On Nov  29th  the Province of Ontario committed 375,000$ to co-fund a study proposed by the City of Ottawa on the feasibility of implementing a downtown tunnel between the 417 and the Macdonald-Cartier bridge as a possible solution to the downtown interprovincial truck problem.  

It was announced at the press conference that they expected to complete this study over the next 12-15 months.  Glenn Murray the provincial minister of infrastructure and transport in his address affirmed that they would not be committing to spend this kind of money unless they were serious about exploring this possibility.

The City's 2-page backgrounder document is an excellent summary of the proposed scope of the study. From the document:

There will be two parts to the study of a tunnel alternative:

Phase One: The first part of the study will assess the technical feasibility of constructing a tunnel and its portals; impacts of portals on adjacent land use, transportation facilities and buildings; ventilation requirements and impacts; potential conflicts with existing utilities and the Confederation Line; geotechnical analysis; the feasibility of using the tunnel by trucks carrying dangerous goods; other relevant tunnelling issues, and construction costs.

Phase Two: If a tunnel solution is deemed technically feasible based on the analysis completed in Phase One, the second phase will go into more depth, and look at issues such as the likely utilization of the tunnel by long-distance trucks and cars; potential community impacts; as well as the potential for repurposing surface streets.

For more information on a truck tunnel alternative, see the Sustainable Solutions ``Tunnel Details Page`` first proposed by us 3 years ago.

Nov 15th Truck Tunnel Study Motion

posted Nov 22, 2013, 12:28 PM by John Verbaas

The text of the motion passed at Transportation Committee on Nov 15, 2013 during the Transportation Master Plan review follows:


Transportation Committee

DATE: NOV. 15, 2013


MOVED BY:              Councillor Fleury

WHEREAS the recent decision by the Ontario government to not proceed with a new inter-provincial bridge crossing has stalled the long-term solution to help alleviate heavy truck movements through the downtown area; and

WHEREAS there are approximately 2,500 trucks on a typical weekday travelling on King Edward and this number is expected to increase by 1% to 2% annually; and

WHEREAS the need for a long-term strategy has resulted in comments for the TMP to recommend a comprehensive truck route study with a focus to reduce heavy truck traffic through the downtown area and specifically on Waller Street, Rideau Street and King Edward Avenue; and

WHEREAS Table 1 lists edits to the TMP that specifically addresses this issue in more detail as proposed by the Lowertown Community Association, Action Sandy Hill, the Downtown Rideau BIA, University of Ottawa and others; and

WHEREAS past interprovincial transportation studies discounted a tunnel solution from the 417 to the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge for technical and operational reasons; and

WHEREAS the Mayor and Ward Councillor have had preliminary discussions with the Province to explore opportunities to revisit the technical feasibility of a tunnel from the 417 to the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that City Council make a formal request to the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario with respect to the potential for cost-sharing of the feasibility assessment for a tunnel from the 417 to the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge on the understanding that the City will initiate and lead the feasibility assessment in collaboration with the Ministry.


Ottawa Prepared to Study Downtown Truck Tunnel

posted Nov 19, 2013, 10:39 AM by John Verbaas

On Nov 15 2013, the City's Transportation Committee met to review the draft 2013 Transportation Master Plan which outlines the transportation vision for the City to 2031 and beyond. One item that is always mentioned in these Transportation Master Plans is the need for a solution to the downtown interprovincial truck problem.  In the past that solution has always been listed as a new interprovincial bridge somewhere in the City's east end.   In a surprising move, a motion was tabled  and passed at this meeting indicating the City was prepared to commit to funding 50% of a 750,000$ feasibility study for a downtown tunnel (to carry trucks) connecting the 417 to the Macdonald-Cartier bridge contingent on the Province of Ontario committing to be a co-funder of the study which is to be led by the City.
This is a welcome move by the City of Ottawa especially in light of the collapse in June 2013 of the initiative to build a new bridge across the Ottawa River.  While Sustainable Solutions was a participant in that interprovincial bridge study, it had lobbied during the past 5 years that an analysis of a downtown tunnel between the 417 and the existing Macdonald-Cartier bridge should be part of the overall assessment process related to a potential new interprovincial bridge.  This was largely because it was becomimg increasingly clear that a new east end bridge would at best be only a partial solution to the downtown truck problem and a solution that required a highly unpopular shifting of trucks into other residential areas of Ottawa and Gatineau. In response the Study partners issued a short tunnel memo  which discounted a tunnel option claiming that it was not feasible and did not meet the projected 2031 needs to enable more cars to cross the Ottawa River.  Sustainable Solutions (as well as other community groups) was never satisfied with the level of analysis that was undertaken as part of that memo. 
The Nov 15th motion of the City of Ottawa indicates that the City is now prepared to do a more detailed feasibility analysis of this tunnel option.
Ottawa Citizen Report on Nov 15 Transportation Committee meeting:

NCC halts Phase 2B study

posted Jul 5, 2013, 11:53 AM by Louis Caron

The month of June has been a tumultuous one in terms of activity on the interprovincial bridge project in Ottawa.  


- After a further 4 years of study, the NCC released their technically preferred corridor selection (Kettle Island)

- the Province of Ontario announced they would not support a bridge at this location

- the Province of Quebec indicated they would not continue without the involvement of the Province of Ontario

 - and so the NCC threw in the towel on the whole project after having completed 80% of the Phase 2B study.


The relevant authorities on the Ontario side (Madeleine Meilleur, Mauril Belanger, Jim Watson, the Ministry of Transport) are now all stating that the focus must be on solving the truck problem downtown without spreading trucks into other communities, and that other alternatives such as a downtown tunnel to connect the 417 freeway to the Macdonald-Cartier bridge need to be more seriously considered.

This was exactly the message started by Sustainable Solutions over four years ago.


Apparently meetings have occurred between the Minister of Transport and the Mayor of Ottawa and a request has been made by Mathieu Fleury, the ward councillor for Lowertown/Sandy Hill, for further meetings with the Minister of Transport. 


Over 4 years ago, Sustainable Solutions invested considerable effort to encourage the authorities to include as part of the Ph2B study an analysis of a downtown tunnel project alongside the analysis of the proposed bridge corridors.  We were unsuccessful at the time and so today the City of Ottawa finds itself in the unfortunate situation of no bridge project and no information available regarding other possible approaches to dealing with the problem of trucks in the downtown.


As we have shown at the link below, we provide an inventory of a number of other cities, which faced with similar issues have opted for a tunnel-based solution.  Although the NCC continues to fixate on the now-shelved Kettle Island Bridge and dismisses the downtown tunnel as “simplistic”, these real life examples are evidence that there is nothing 'simplistic' about it.



The primary outcome of the proposed bridge at Kettle Island would have been the encouragement of more single-occupant vehicles crossing the Ottawa River.  The studies showed that there would be excess peak hour interprovincial auto capacity available, even in 2031 with the proposed Kettle Island Bridge in place.  Whatever contributions it would also make to addressing the downtown truck problem or improving transit were going to be mediocre at best. In the end, the project was overwhelmed by its own weaknesses (technical, political, economic, environmental) and as a result of flaws in the initial project requirements as originally drawn up in 2007.

The Macdonald-Cartier bridge, by virtue of the fact that it is centrally located, is connected directly to the 5/50 freeways in Gatineau and despite its winding route on the downtown Ottawa side, also has the shortest path to the 417 freeway of all the interprovincial bridges, will always see the heaviest demand for both car and truck movements in the region.  No amount of building more bridges anywhere else in the region will ever change that.  It is time that our planners face this fact, and the legacy that we have been left with by virtue of building the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge in the 1960’s.  It is time to fix once and for all the connection on the Ottawa side between this bridge and the 417. 

In the current urban planning ethos, providing more peak period capacity for cars as the most important outcome in planning large urban transportation infrastructure projects is a tenuous proposition.  This was and will likely continue to be the Kettle Island Bridge's  achilles heel.   


Maybe out of this mess our leaders and planners have left us with will now emerge a community-centric, sustainable, and 21st century based approach to our interprovincial challenges for moving people and goods which will actually deliver a meaningful solution to the downtown interprovincial truck problem.


Sustainable Solutions will continue to work with politicians and staff at the municipal and provincial levels to ensure that a comprehensive study of a downtown tunnel is undertaken, with a view to finding a real solution to the downtown truck problem.  The status quo is simply unacceptable.


Kettle Island the Preferred Location for an East End Bridge

posted May 21, 2013, 2:30 PM by John Verbaas

On May 14th 2013, the NCC announced the decision of their "Evaluation Committee" regarding the "technically preferred corridor" for a new interprovincial bridge in the east end of the NCR.   The choice was Kettle Island (via Aviation Parkway-Montee Paiement).   Kettle Island was preferred over the 2 other corridors under consideration, both of which were located further east.  This is basically a re-confirmation of the Phase 1 study which also recommended Kettle Island in 2008.  Previous studies in the 1990's had also arrived at similar conclusions. 

Reaction was swift with local politicians at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels for the affected area all declaring that they would not support a bridge at Kettle Island.  

Watson wants to explore truck-only toll tunnel rather than Kettle Island bridge

MetroNews Canada

Watson’s comments came in response to the National Capital Commission’s preference for a new interprovincial bridge along the Kettle Island corridor. The bridge is partially an effort to reduce truck congestion in the downtown core — Watson’s against the idea.

“I think what we have to do is look more creatively. Instead of looking at a bridge, we should be looking at the possibility of a truck-only tunnel going off the bridge, under King Edward and coming up at Nicholas at the 417,” Watson said.

“That solves the truck problem in the downtown without hurting another series of neighbourhoods in the east end.”

There’s no estimate on how much that would cost, but Watson said he suspects there could be economies of scale, since drilling equipment will already be in the city over the coming years for the construction of the Confederation Line. The Kettle Island bridge is estimated to cost $1.16 billion.

Coun. Keith Egli, the chair of the city’s transportation committee, said the NCC’s report is due to committee in June. At that point, Egli said, councillors may direct staff to explore the tunnel idea.

Madeleine Meilleur: A bridge at Kettle Island is not an option!
May 14th, 2013

Here is what the Honourable Madeleine Meilleur says:

I am very disappointed in the National Capital Commission’s recent recommendation for the east-end bridge. Among other things, it does not address the issue of eliminating truck traffic in the city core.

The building of a bridge between Ottawa and Gatineau has been my priority for many years, but I’ve always maintained that a new bridge should not disrupt established residential neighbourhoods. Any interprovincial bridge needs to get the trucks out of downtown, and any proposal that does not respect the local communities and does not get the trucks out of residential areas is not a solution.

I will continue to fight to protect all residential neighbourhoods and to encourage better public transit to and from the city core, and I will recommend that the Ontario government NOT FUND a bridge at Kettle Island.

Here is what the Honourable Mauril Bélanger adds:

In 1995, I stated publicly that I was against a bridge at Kettle Island, via the Aviation Parkway. I have not changed my mind and I am always against this option because it only spreads a problem: that of heavy trucks in the core of our nation’s capital – but does not solve it.

In the absence of a sound planning of our transportation corridors from the NCC, I add my voice to those who advocate the abandonment of this project and urge the Ontario government not to finance a bridge at Kettle Island.

If east end politicians are not in support of a new bridge at Kettle Island even though several very rigorous and detailed studies over 2 decades have repeatedly confirmed this is the preferred route, then what do they propose to do about the problem of inter-provincial trucks cutting through downtown streets?  The study predicted that today's problem of 3600 trucks per day (2600 on Rideau/King Edward and 1000 on Chaudieres) would grow to a problem of 5800 trucks per day by 2031.  Sustainable Solutions-Solutions durable will continue to raise the profile of this downtown truck problem and press politicians of all levels to be more proactive at finding a path forward.  Further delays in dealing with this truck problem are unacceptable.

The proposed project costs were updated as 1.1B$.  This cost is composed of approximately 50% bridge costs, 25% new road work on the approaches to the bridge and 25% for engineering and contingency.   The proposed bridge consists of 2 traffic and 1 dedicated transit lane in each direction.  The roadway approaches on both the Ottawa and Gatineau side need to be modified and widened, significant interchange modifications required at the 417 and 50 interchanges, and overpasses would be built when the corridor crosses over Ogilvy Road on the Ottawa side and Blvd Maloney on the Quebec side.

Updated Bridge Cost Estimates Released

posted May 3, 2013, 10:49 AM by John Verbaas

In preparation for the May 13th Public Consultation Group meeting, the study team has been posting a number of study documents on their website (  One of the more interesting studies are the cost estimates for each of the 3 bridges under consideration.  

The costs are estimated to be between 1.1B$ (Corridor 5) and 1.4B$ (Corridor's 6 and 7).  The bridge structure itself represents about 50% of the total costs, the roadway modifications in Ontario and Quebec another 20% with the final 30% related to design, engineering, project management, and contingencies.

Other options such as a tunnel under downtown Ottawa to link the 417 to the Macdonald-Cartier bridge were rejected several years ago partially on the grounds of  being too expensive to warrant further investigation.  Meanwhile the City of Ottawa has signed a contract for a downtown transit tunnel giving us some tunnel cost data points indicating what a tunnel excavation in downtown Ottawa might cost.  It is certainly nowhere near the 1.1B$ to 1.4B$ now being quoted for the interprovincial bridge project!

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