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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Study says truck tunnel would ease congestion in downtown Ottawa

For a price of between $1.7 billion and $2 billion, a twin-bore tunnel carrying two traffic lanes each could divert as many as 20,000 to 25,000 vehicles daily from downtown streets. The tunnel would connect the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge to Highway 417 at Vanier Parkway through Sandy Hill and Lowertown. The study estimated that the tunnel could draw as many as 1,700 trucks per day.

A proposal to build a 3.4-kilometer tunnel in downtown Ottawa could be the solution to the city’s long-standing congestion problems, according to a new feasibility study. There have been many solutions presented over the past forty years and millions spent on studies and still no action.

This is to replace the truck route built but only used for several months until the NIMBYs along the Vanier Parkway screamed long and hard enough to change the minds of the weak politicians of the day.

This is also to prevent the building of a new bridge, farther east, because the future NIMBYs might scream and yell.

City officials are seeking an answer for how to solve heavy traffic along the King Edward-Rideau-Waller-Nicholas Corridor, a major truck route connecting highway networks in Ontario and Quebec, according to the study, which will be considered at a meeting of the city’s transportation committee on Wed., Sept. 7.

“The significant heavy-truck traffic moving between Ottawa and Gatineau has long been a major issue for residents as well as for those visiting Canada’s capital,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said in an Aug. 17 press release announcing the study. “This report should equip us with the information we need to make a case to the provincial and federal governments on how best to move forward towards a solution that works for all.”

One area not addressed by the study is how the city would pay for the project. The city and the province split the $750,000 cost for the feasibility study.

The study notes that there are three groups of trucks using the KERWN corridor: local trucks making one or more stops in the study area; regional trucks that are passing through the study area without needing to stop; and dangerous goods trucks, which are typically not allowed in tunnels. The split between local and regional truck trips was 35 percent and 65 percent respectively.

The city estimated that traffic demands for a truck-only tunnel would be too small to justify the expense, which is why they are considering opening it to all traffic.

The study also outlines various options for potential ownership of the proposed tunnel, including as a state-owned enterprise – which the authors note would be appropriate if the tunnel is considered part of the provincial highway network. Public and private ownership options, as well as the creation of a tunnel authority were also discussed.