City justifying potential Brian Coburn extension through Ottawa's largest natural area
I requested an interview with City staff but received this response instead. However, you can listen to my interview with Jakob Mueller of the Ottawa Field Naturalists Club on why this idea should be abandoned.
City of Ottawa - Media Relations/Ville d'Ottawa - Relations avec les médias Jul 14, 2021, 4:57 PM
Hi Candice, Here are the responses to your questions, which are attributed to Frank McKinney, Program Manager, Transportation Planning – Environmental Assessments.
Why is this extension being contemplated? Who will it serve?
The City’s Transportation Master Plan (TMP) identified the new road and transitway as being required to address growth and travel demand to the 2031 planning horizon. The Brian Coburn Boulevard Extension and Cumberland Transitway will provide improved mobility and reliable transit service to and from downtown and to the south urban area (Walkley and Hunt Club area) for south Orléans and Blackburn Hamlet residents. Here is the study area:
Additional information such as video presentations, descriptions and maps of the recommended interim design and ultimate design can be found on the Brian Coburn Extension / Cumberland Transitway Westerly Alternate Corridor EA Study project webpage.
2. What is the transitway component?
The transitway forms part of the Cumberland Transitway that extends from Blair LRT Station to Millenium Transit Station. From the Chapel Hill Park and Ride, the transitway will extend west and pass under Navan Road running parallel and north of the new roadway. It then follows the existing Anderson Road alignment passing under Innes Road via a tunnel and then continues west following the north edge of Innes Road to Blair Road.
3. Why would it go along a route with very little population rather than through a higher-density area where many people could access it?
The study conducted transportation modelling for the road and transit usage of the four short-listed options and concluded that transit ridership would be the same for all the options. This is likely due to the preference for Blackburn Hamlet residents to take the local bus route through the community, destined for the Montreal Road LRT Station. Also, the planned transit stations along the Blackburn Hamlet Bypass for Options 1, 4 and 5 are farther away from the community than the local bus service. It should be noted that east of Navan Road, there is already a protected corridor for the Cumberland Transitway which is located in the middle of the community.
4. Did City staff recommend this route or was that a political decision?
The Recommended Plan was based on a comprehensive evaluation and assessment process, which is an integral part of the Environmental Assessment study.
5. The proposed route runs right along the edge of the bog's RAMSAR boundary. Parts of the RAMSAR conditions include buffer zones. This will destroy those buffer zones, which goes against the international agreement. Has that been properly considered? By whom?
The RAMSAR boundary is located well south of Renaud Road while the Recommended Plan is located north of Renaud Road and much further away from the RAMSAR boundary.
6. Are there any wildlife mitigation structures (such as exclusion fencing and ecopassages)?
The identification of potential project environmental effects is an important part of the EA study process and involves consideration of the various project activities and their interactions with the environment. Mitigation measures are identified to eliminate, reduce, control and/or offset the potentially adverse environmental effects.
As part of this project, the development of a Landscape Mitigation Strategy is proposed to help address potential impacts to the Greenbelt’s natural and rural landscape.
Loss of vegetation and natural habitat will be addressed through an Ecological Restoration Plan to offset losses, enhance existing habitat quality and potentially identify new habitat features. Wildlife crossings and road exclusion fencing are also proposed to mitigate potentially increased wildlife mortality.
Impacts to fish and fish habitat will be addressed through various measures including a natural channel design at the proposed realignment of Mud Creek. Fish passage and natural channel flow regimes are proposed to be maintained at culvert water crossings.
More specific wildlife mitigation measures will be determined during implementation.
7. Will the rerouting of Mud Creek result in a net habitat loss in terms of channel length as well as habitat quality in terms of channelization and loss of habitat features such as undercut bank?
The routing of Mud Creek provides opportunities to enhance and improve existing conditions through natural channel design, terrestrial and aquatic habitat enhancements, erosion protection and slope stabilization measures.
Loss of vegetation and natural habitat will be addressed through an Ecological Restoration and Enhancement Plan to offset losses, enhance existing habitat quality and potentially create new habitat features.
8. Were biologists and botanists consulted? Were they City staff or an outside firm?
The consulting team retained to assist the City with the Environmental Assessment study includes highly qualified technical experts from all areas, including a biologist, ecologists and fisheries specialists. The Senior Terrestrial Ecologist/Arborist brings over 25 years of experience to the project and the Senior Fisheries Biologist has 18 years of experience.
9. This is another in a list of projects the City appears to be greenlighting which go against the publicly stated goals of climate change mitigation. Is there an understanding at City Hall that habitat preservation, particularly the bog which is a carbon sink, is one of the best ways to reduce GHG emissions? If yes, why is it not apparent?
This project includes a transitway and active transportation infrastructure – which are sustainable modes of travel that help combat climate change. This study did consider the effects on climate change in the assessment and evaluation of the four short-listed options.
It is recommended that climate change adaptation measures be considered during detail design including those related to flood design, stormwater management, selection of plant species for landscaping and erosion protection. It is also proposed that sustainable design principles be followed including consideration of low carbon material selection.
Both the Recommended and Interim Plans include multi-use pathways throughout the corridors. The Interim Plan includes active transportation facilities, including a new north side 4.0 m multi-use pathway to serve as a bi-directional cycling facility. The new multi-use pathway will extend from Blair Road at Innes Road to the Tauvette Street / Glen Park Drive / Innes Road intersection in Blackburn Hamlet.
The shared Transit Priority and HOV lanes in the Interim Plans support carpooling, which is part of the City’s transportation demand management strategy.
10. If a connection is needed between Orleans and Ottawa why was that not considered before extensive development went ahead? Who on City staff would have recommended it and who needs to approve it?
When the urban area in the southeast sector was being considered for expansion south of Innes Road in the late 1980’s, it was recognized then that the new growth would require both a new Transitway (the Cumberland Transitway) and a new arterial (then the Blackburn Hamlet Bypass Extension) to serve the new community. Since then, the eastern portion of the roadway (now called the Brian Coburn Boulevard) was constructed to provide access within the community as new developments took place. The western segment towards Blair Road would be the second phase of implementation. This western segment is the subject of the current EA study. These projects are identified in previous TMPs, and are still included in the current TMP, which is a supporting document to the City’s Official Plan (OP). The TMP includes policies and transportation infrastructure to support growth to the 2031 planning horizon. Council approves all strategic planning documents such as the OP and the TMP and their updates. EAs are undertaken as a first step in implementing the projects identified in the TMP. Council ultimately approves the findings and recommendations of the EAs. Funding availability also affects the timing of projects (from studies, to design, to construction).
11. Why is this plan suddenly appearing when the last talk about it was just before Christmas 2019 and before the pandemic was acknowledged?
Since the last public consultation in November 2019, the study team analyzed the feedback received, selected a technically preferred corridor, and developed and assessed several design options for the corridor alignment – resulting in a recommended plan. Staff are currently consulting on this plan.
This is a complex study and time was needed to develop the evaluation criteria in consultation with the NCC. The study team wanted to make sure that the criteria reflected the importance of the Greenbelt before assessing the options. While impacts on the natural environment is important, it should be noted that to holistically assess a project, there are other criteria that must be considered, including community impacts, transportation effectiveness, and project cost.
12. Why was there no consultation with affected communities such as Carlsbad Springs, NDC, Navan, etc.?
Consultation was undertaken with affected communities consisting of 4 meetings with the community groups and email communication throughout the study period.
To date, there has been two open houses and a virtual consultation to provide an opportunity for interested persons to learn about the study and provide input. The study has also received input from agencies, businesses, and public consultation groups during key points of the study.
Staff will review comments received through the on-line consultation and finalize the functional design of the recommended plan later this summer. Once complete, staff will present the design and plan to Transportation Committee and Council for approval in Fall 2021. The final Environmental Study Report is anticipated to be filed for public review in early 2022.
13. Is the City aware of the Ramsar Convention status of this internationally important wetland?
If not, how much diligence have the planners done since this designation of global significance has been on the books since 1995? (see: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/corporate/international-affairs/partnerships-organizations/important-wetlands-ramsar-convention.html)
Yes. The study considered all the relevant background documents required, including the RAMSAR status, to identify existing conditions and as a basis of going forward with identifying the alternative solutions.
14. Given the above, why wouldn't the City design transportation linkages in areas which are far better suited to densification? Even just structurally (the bog features upwelling water - it is a headwater, not a lowland), never mind the found-nowhere-else-on-earth plants they will bulldoze.
Please see response to Question 3. Also, the link provided in the response to Question 1 for more information about the project.
15. Has the NCC signed off on this?
The City recognizes that for the project to be implemented, federal lands will be required. It is the City’s hope that in future talks with the NCC, an agreement can be reached based on a mutually acceptable mitigation strategy.
Dear Ms. Taylor, I am a reporter for CJRO Radio and host of Local First. I would like to interview you or someone from the City regarding the proposed Brian Coburn extension which would encroach on Mer Bleu Bog. I would need the interview today or tomorrow. Thank you kindly. Best regards, Candice Vetter