Trucks in downtown Ottawa
In quest of a solution to the Ottawa downtown truck problem
This site has been created to inform the public about the downtown Ottawa inter-provincial truck problem, the history of the failed attempts to address this problem, and presents alternative approaches that should be given more consideration.
An overview of the current situation, can be found on the Executive Summary page.
One of the most critical issues facing the National Capital Region (NCR) is the routing of about 2,500 heavy trucks per day between Highway 417 in Ottawa and Highways 5/50 in Gatineau via the Macdonald–Cartier Bridge, via urban streets (King Edward, Rideau, Waller and Nicholas or ‘KERWN’) in Ottawa’s downtown. This situation has existed since the construction of the Macdonald-Cartier bridge in 1965 and the consequences in terms of health, safety and degradation of the surrounding areas are well-known and are unacceptable. A solution to this problem must be found; one that is both environmentally sustainable and does not simply spread the problem to other neighbourhoods.
Between 2007 and 2013, the National Capital Commission (NCC) and its funding partners, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) and the Québec Ministry of Transportation (MTQ), with the technical support from the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau, conducted several studies focusing on selecting a corridor for building a new "sixth crossing" spanning the Ottawa River. The purpose of a new proposed crossing, according to the terms of reference of the study, was to address the future interprovincial transportation needs of the NCR. These included adding peak hour vehicular capacity to meet the projected need in the 20 to 50 year time horizon and providing a new route across the Ottawa River for heavy trucks as well as offering a major arterial interconnection between Highway 417 and Autoroute 5/50. No other alternative (such as a tunnel under downtown Ottawa to provide a proper connection from the 5/50 via the existing Macdonald-Cartier Bridge to the Highway 417) was given serious consideration.
As these studies progressed, it became increasingly clear that each possible corridor being assessed would encounter difficult challenges in trying to simultaneously provide an adequate solution to all three of the requirements. The studies' final recommendation was the construction of a new bridge along approaches using the Aviation Parkway, Kettle Island, and Montée Paiement corridor. This recommendation raised significant public concern. Eventually, the Ontario Government, and later that of Quebec, withdrew support, and the NCC terminated the study.
Sustainable Solutions/Solutions durables (SSD) believes that it would be unacceptable to proceed with a new bridge (with initial cost estimate of $1.1B in 2012$, updated to 1.8B$ in 2019) without first clearly demonstrating how such a bridge would provide a substantive solution to the routing of interprovincial truck traffic through Ottawa's downtown. This was never accomplished in the 2007-2013 studies.
SSD also believes that other alternatives exist, which exhibit better potential to solve the truck problem. These alternatives would not degrade environmentally sensitive natural areas of the Ottawa River nor would they direct heavy trucks over lengthy (and at high cost to business) alternative routes of dubious suitability for large volumes of heavy truck traffic via a new bridge. A better solution would not simply shift or spread the truck problem into other neighbourhoods, and together with other important initiatives such as improved transit and better planning should lead to a better and more sustainable NCR.
One of the most promising alternatives is a downtown tunnel (not a tunnel under the Ottawa River) that would directly link Highway 417 with the existing 6 lane Macdonald-Cartier Bridge. A tunnel under the downtown area holds better potential to get trucks off of downtown streets, once and for all and to do so without shifting the truck problem to other communities in the NCR. With a tunnel, all interprovincial trucks not making a stop in downtown Ottawa would be diverted from the KERWN corridor. A tunnel would also provide the potential opportunity to divert as many as 20,000 cars that daily travel directly between the 417 and the existing bridge from these streets.
In summer 2013, the City of Ottawa and the Province of Ontario agreed to co-fund a $750,000 engineering feasibility study for a downtown tunnel to connect Highway 417 to the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge. The study results were made public in Aug 2016 and concluded that a tunnel was technically feasible. Ottawa City Council in Sept 2016 voted 21-2 in favour of proceeding to a detailed Environmental Assessment. This option was first recommended by SSD and many other members of the public in 2007.
Why you should support Sustainable Solutions/Solutions durables (SSD)
The prospect of a new bridge across the Ottawa River has been historically a very divisive issue in the NCR, pitting communities against each other in an effort to prove why a new bridge would have less impact in someone else's community. This limits the difference that citizens can make in the public consultation process. It also continues to prolong the decision making stalemate that has prevented any substantial progress towards a solution to the downtown truck problem.
SSD offers a way forward out of this impasse. We want to see a substantive solution to Ottawa's downtown truck problems, one which doesn't involve simply spreading this truck problem into other neighbourhoods.
The success of any proposed project must take into account what communities want. Your involvement in this process will make an important contribution. Add your voice to ours. Together we can make a positive impact to get the best solution for the NCR as a whole.