Calls for federal minister to help resolve matter within 100 days
The problems with building thousands of houses in the Ottawa suburb of Orléans — a plan based on a long-promised bus rapid transit line that has never materialized — came home to roost at transportation committee Wednesday, as residents pushed for a corridor across federal Greenbelt lands to ease gridlock.
Committee members ultimately voted seven to four to approve the City of Ottawa's preferred route for a $178-million future bus Transitway and $128-million extension to Brian Coburn Boulevard.
That's even though the city doesn't yet have the money for it and it's far from clear if it will get the 42 hectares of Greenbelt farmland on which to build it.
That belongs to the National Capital Commission (NCC), which refuses to release it.
Municipal politicians have been frustrated by the NCC's stance and approved a motion by Cumberland Coun. Catherine Kitts to ask the federal minister responsible for the NCC, Filomena Tassi, to bring the two sides together to "resolve the impasse" within 100 days.
"What perhaps can't be comprehended unless you've lived here for decades is how explosive the growth has been in South Orléans in the past 15 years," said Kitts, who said those thousands of idling cars will have an environmental impact if no Transitway is built.
Councillors who voted against the route said it was premature as the city has yet to update its study of traffic patterns, lacks funding and they want to see what happens with the NCC.
In an email, NCC spokesperson Valérie Dufour said the crown corporation remains open to routes along the existing Blackburn Hamlet Bypass and the NCC board would discuss these developments at its April meeting.
The report goes to full city council on March 9.
Traffic problems in booming Orléans
Many residents who spoke in favour of the Greenbelt route described how the city has approved their car-centric developments in Orléans, south of Innes Road, and yet the critical transit and road corridor identified 30 years ago remains unbuilt.
Bradley Estates resident and community association member Heather Buchanan said she can hear trucks behind her home on rural Renaud Road, an "unofficial highway" drivers use to continue when Brian Coburn Boulevard ends.
City of Ottawa staff recommend a design for the Brian Coburn Boulevard extension and a bus rapid transit route that travels through the Greenbelt, south of the existing Blackburn Hamlet Bypass. (City of Ottawa)
Even if the city built its corridor along the Blackburn Hamlet Bypass — which the city determined had poor soil conditions — drivers are "creatures of habit" and would continue using Renaud Road, Buchanan said.
"We have thousands and thousands of homes, and another 8,000 coming down the pike, based on a transportation system that doesn't exist," she said.
"This is the time that the city needs to do something about it."
Innes Road traffic is "insane," added Rylee Batista, president of the Chapel Hill South Community Association. She too described a neighbourhood where traffic is the biggest issue.
Concerns for Greenbelt
Many residents took issue with what they called "myths" about how the proposal would affect the Mer Bleue wetlands, saying the route wouldn't go through the bog itself.
Even the Friends of Mer Bleue supported the route closer to the bog because the option provided the "minimum of new road construction."
But both the Greenspace Alliance of Canada's Capital and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society sided with the NCC and didn't want to see the Greenbelt further broken up.
The alliance's chair Paul Johanis said a six-lane corridor should not be allowed next to the second-largest bog in southern Ontario and a wetland of international significance.
Bernard Wood, a professional evaluator who's combed through many technical documents, was concerned the city's preferred option had risen to the top after early evaluations didn't favour it. "Such an extreme reversal raises a red flag for any evaluator, especially when it's combined with such high pressure and heated advocacy," Wood said. The city's consultant from Morrison Hershfield said those earlier assessments weren't meant to be definitive and more detailed study was then done.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Kate Porter Reporter