The NCC is once again devoting some effort to defining an interprovincial transportation plan for the region. The current initiative comes on the heels of the collapse of the effort between 2007 and 2013 to decide where to build a new bridge across the Ottawa River. The current effort is taking a step back from that and looking more broadly at transportation and the full range of options for improving the movement of people and goods interprovincially. This could involve any combination of solutions including transit, active transportation links, peak demand management, or new road infrastructure.
The study will have several phases with opportunities for public consultation after each phase and a final report expected by mid-2021. The first phase of consultations is already completed and focused on what vision, guiding principles, and evaluation criteria should be used in the study. The next phase will propose multiple different future transportation scenarios and solicit public comment before moving on to evaluate these and recommend a preferred scenario. Key for Sandy Hill residents will be the degree of emphasis the NCC places on finding solutions to the problem of interprovincial trucks being routed through the downtown, versus the level of focus placed on how to move more people and cars across the river.
In background studies, the NCC has confirmed for example that a new bridge in the east end of the city would attract less than one third of the trucks out of the downtown. Would the authorities in the region be able to force the other two thirds of the truck traffic to use a new bridge, subjecting them to longer trips than today? Would the City of Gatineau refuse to accept such an arrangement, as they have indicated was their intention in the past? That action stemmed from the fact that the main options for new bridges in the east end involve connections on the Gatineau side that go through residential areas. Thus in 2010, Gatineau city council approved a motion stating it was unacceptable to move all truck traffic to a new bridge at Kettle Island.
Alternatively, the NCC may not recommend a new bridge in the east end, but only transit and cycling improvements to allow more people to cross the river. There is not likely to be much improvement to the truck situation downtown.
Solving the interprovincial transportation challenges in the region, including the truck problems downtown, is not going to be easy. If it were, then we wouldn’t be in the situation we are in now, where multiple different initiatives taken over the past 30 years have all failed to find the consensus needed to move forward. This study is the time for the residents of Sandy Hill and Lowertown to speak up and make their voices heard. If we don’t, then in 2050 we might still find ourselves in the same situation: with 2000 or more trucks each day still rumbling through the downtown. To find out more about the NCC study, visit the NCC website and search on the word “crossings”.