NCC halts Phase 2B study

Post date: Jul 5, 2013 6:53:44 PM

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.