Bridges: Ongoing Challenges

This page provides an overview of the issues encountered to date with the inter-provincial crossings candidate corridors that were carried forward to Phase 2B of the 2007-2013 Study.   

Phase 1 Terms of Reference issues

The Terms of Reference created at the beginning of Phase 1 in 2007 were worded in such a way as to significantly affect the direction of the whole study. Members of the public interested in other approaches to solving the region's interprovincial transportation needs were unable to enter into meaningful consultation with the Study Partners about these approaches because certain elements in the Terms of Reference were used to screen them out. Furthermore the Study Partners did not engage in a discussion concerning the requirements as expressed in the Terms of Reference.  Some members of the public believed that significant new perspectives arose over the course of the study which required an open public consultation on the topic of "What are the key issues this project is intended to solve".  Instead, the scope of the Study remained focused on the topic of deciding "What is the best (least worst?) location to build a new bridge".

Follow this link for more details concerning the Terms of Reference and a commentary on some of the issues. >> Terms of Reference


The focus on accommodating more car traffic

Two key aspects of the original terms of reference were: (a) the need for a new bridge to serve as a new truck route and (b) to accommodate the anticipated increase in car traffic. 


The study proponents used the requirement to meet future projected peak auto demand (a difficult parameter to predict) to  screen out early in the process other options which would have been much better at solving the downtown truck problem. Meanwhile, the shortcomings of all the proposed bridges to solve the downtown truck problem were not taken very seriously.


Studies must pay more attention to performing the analysis required to ensure any proposed alternative provides an acceptable solution to today's ongoing truck problems. One of the requirements of any study must include a definitive proposal concerning how the recommended project will provide a solution to the truck problems.


The lack of focus on solving the downtown truck problems

Most citizens of Ottawa have understood the most important reason for building a new bridge was to solve the problem of 2500 heavy trucks per day traversing the residential and highly “pedestrianized” Waller, Rideau, and King Edward streets. 

One of the roadblocks encountered in consultations with the Study partners was that the Terms of Reference were vague with respect to the extent to which the proposed project was to solve the current downtown truck problem. The Terms of Reference merely stated "Provide a truck route, including the possible modification of existing routes, that can link to existing truck routes on both sides of the river".


How many trucks should a new bridge remove from King Edward, Rideau, and Waller streets in order for the bridge to be considered a reasonable and viable project? This has never been defined. Most people assumed that any new bridge would be the solution to this downtown truck issue and not just simply a 'new truck route in the network'. A definitive solution to the downtown truck problem was not the intention of the study partners. This does not reflect the needs and wishes of the majority of Ottawa residents.

Challenges to solving the downtown truck problems

Perhaps one of the reasons why there has been a relative lack of focus on solving the downtown truck problems relative to the importance placed on meeting the projected increases of auto traffic is the difficulty and complexity of solving this downtown truck problem by means of a new bridge. These challenges include the length of these alternative routes via the east end bridges, the poor characteristics of these corridors for carrying large numbers of heavy trucks, and the differing perspectives regarding the truck issues between the City of Ottawa and the City of Gatineau.

To understand more about why this  click here >> Challenges to Solving Downtown Truck Problem


Projections used for increases in auto demand

Another key requirement of the Terms of Reference was the need for a new bridge to accommodate the anticipated increases in car traffic. The process of predicting just how much traffic this will be is a challenging one. Already during the course of this project several revisions of the projected increases in interprovincial automobile traffic were made.  Over the years predictions concerning traffic growth by the City of Ottawa have had to be scaled back. 

If you would like to understand more about the mixed data relevant to determining how much new Ottawa River crossing capacity will be needed for cars then click here >> Peak Auto Demand Projections

Challenges with the proposed roadway corridor options

The original Terms of Reference required that a bridge project should deliver a major arterial connection and truck route between Hwy 417 in Ottawa and Autoroute 5/50 in Quebec. All three options that were  carried forward into Phase 2B encountered challenges as a 'major arterial connection' and as truck routes on both sides of the river. However, because the Phase 2B process only performed relative comparisons between the bridge corridor options all it was capable of doing is determining the best (least worst?) option. As a result, these limitations were easy to gloss over. 

If you'd like to understand the issues surrounding the suitability of the shortlisted corridors, then click here >> Corridor Challenges


Negative impact on achieving transit objectives

The study team presented the proposed east end bridge as transit friendly because it would accommodate transit operations across the bridge.  However there was no attempt to account for the impact a bridge would have on reducing transit ridership from east Gatineau into downtown Gatineau/downtown Ottawa.   An east end bridge, by adding spare capacity for automobiles will certainly increase the attractiveness for driving over transit especially towards the downtown.  This impact should be taken into account in the overall cost-benefit analysis of an east end bridge versus other more sustainable alternatives.

Loss of undeveloped green space

All three of the proposed corridors in Phase 2B cut-through significant undeveloped green space. On the Ontario side options 6 and 7 cut-through the Greenbelt while option 5 passes through the Montfort Woods and RCMP Musical Ride grounds.  On the Quebec side options 6 and 7 pass through significant undeveloped areas and wetlands. On the actual river crossing option 5 crosses Kettle Island, owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.  The noise propagated from high volume high speed traffic on any new bridge will significantly alter what is now a natural quiet area for all users along this section of the Ottawa River.


The proposed roadway will be 4-lanes carrying high volume auto and heavy truck traffic. We should take very seriously the impact this kind of traffic will have on these areas. The magnitude of these side effects makes it imperative that all possible alternatives be given serious consideration. We believe these alternatives have not been adequately investigated.

No Ontario Environmental Assessment

This project envisions significant road work on the Ontario side which may include new or modified intersections with the 417 and major new or modified 4-lane section of roadways some which could be through the Greenbelt and others which are through established residential neighborhoods. Yet despite these impacts, it has been determined that only Federal and not Ontario environmental legislation or review will apply. In contrast Quebec environmental review will be applied for developments on the Gatineau side of the river.

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