by John Dance
Safe pedestrian and cycling connections in the Glebe area received a massive boost with Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna’s announcement of federal infrastructure funding for Ottawa.
Initial headlines highlighted the $10.5 million contribution to the Fifth-Clegg Canal footbridge but buried in the detail were a number of other local projects that will make it safer and easier for pedestrians and cyclists, notably the new crossings of Queen Elizabeth Drive and the underpass of Bank Street on the south side of the Rideau River.
Indeed, the safe crossings of the Driveway at Queen Elizabeth Place just to the west of the Bank Street Canal bridge and at Commissioners Park near Dow’s Lake will be completed by mid-November.
Although under discussion for many years, efforts were stalled by a lack of a funding source for the crossings. The federal infrastructure program will contribute half the $750,000 cost, with the city paying the balance.
Both crossings will be wide, raised and of concrete construction with pedestrian-activated “rapid flashing beacons” that require motorists to stop. As a result of consultations in June, there will be 40k/hr speed limits for both crossings, including by the “Man with Two Hats” monument about 150 metres to the west of the new crossing.
The crossing at Queen Elizabeth Place will be enhanced through the creation of a large “island” between the parkway lanes, the removal of the Driveway’s westbound right-turn lane and the realignment of the through lane to improve sightlines. And a “zebra” marking crosswalk will be made across Queen Elizabeth Place in addition to the markings for the parkway crossing as was suggested during consultations.
The National Capital Commission had proposed to restrict access to the Two Hats monument but as a result of consultation its existing crossing will be maintained and made safer through the reduced speed limit near the Commissioners Park crossing.
The new underpass of Bank Street on the Riverside Drive side of the Rideau River will make it easier to walk and bike along the Rideau River Eastern Pathway and will match the underpass on the north side of the bridge.
“Though this underpass does not remove the need for a full redesign of that intersection and rebuild of the bridge over the long-term, it will allow many users to bypass this constrained and often scary at-grade crossing of Bank Street,” said Capital Ward Councillor David Chernushenko.
Just above the underpass is where cyclist Meg Dussault was killed in 2013 when struck by a cement truck. A ghost bike marked the site of the accident and, to the dismay of many, was removed in May by the city.
“The current configuration is that east-west cyclists need to cross Bank Street at surface level at Riverside Drive,” said Alex deVries, Vice President, Citizens for Safe Cycling. “The waiting areas here are often full, and cyclists are to dismount at the crosswalk. This would provide a fast way for continuing cyclists to avoid the intersection, making the route safer, faster and easier. It’s worth noting that this doesn’t address the cycling issues of Billings Bridge or Bank Street further south.”
The federal infrastructure program will cover half of the $2 million project, with the City paying the balance. No specific construction start date has been announced although it is to be completed no later than April 2019.
Other local infrastructure projects supported by the federal infrastructure program include pathway construction along the Trillium Line (O-Train) from Carling to Dow’s Lake, design of a footbridge connecting Carleton University and Vincent Massey Park, and extensions of the Rideau River Western Pathway in Old Ottawa East.
John Dance is an Old Ottawa East resident and long-time supporter of good pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.