‘Ottawa’ King Edward Truck Tunnel Study Release Delayed Until September
The city won’t release the results of a long-awaited study into the feasibility of building a truck tunnel underneath King Edward Avenue until September — months after the findings were supposed to be presented to the transportation committee.
Council voted last July to make the $750,000 tunnel study a term-of-council priority to be completed by March 31, the end of the city’s first quarter.
Engineering consulting firm Parsons submitted a draft report before that deadline and it was circulated to provincial transportation ministries in Ontario and Quebec, the National Capital Commission and various city departments for comment, transportation committee chair Keith Egli said Monday.
The final report is apparently not done yet, but Egli says it will be in time for city staff to produce their own report and recommendations in advance of the Sept. 7 transportation committee meeting.
“We want to get it right and we want to get it at a meeting where it will have a proper discussion,” Egli said, noting the committee’s July meeting is already expected to have at least one hot-button item: the winter maintenance review.
The feasibility study is “a big project with a lot of moving parts, lot of levels of government,” Egli said.
Parsons was hired in August 2014 to conduct the study, the costs of which are being split by the city and province.
Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury said the study, which he has seen, considers six options for a tunnel to link the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge and Highway 417 through an area roughly bounded by the Rideau Canal to the west, the Vanier Parkway to the east and southern connection points at the Nicholas, Lees or Vanier Parkway ramps. Tunnel length, ramp length and land acquisition were considered for each of the options.
The most preliminary thinking imagines either a tunnel that begins where Highway 417 meets King Edward and goes underneath King Edward north to the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge, or a couple of more westerly variations that let trucks stay on the surface on the long Nicholas Street ramp but put them in a tunnel starting at Laurier Avenue and proceeding more or less under the ByWard Market.
A specific route is being put forward as the best option, but Fleury wouldn’t get into specifics. The cost of building the tunnel could exceed $1 billion.
Though he admits he’s not pleased with the delay — part of which he attributed to the arrival of new city manager Steve Kanellakos, who needed to be brought up to speed on the file — the good news is that the study ultimately concludes that a building a tunnel is feasible, the councillor says.
“The worst position our community would be (in) is if the study comes back and says, ‘We’ve studied all this and none of this can happen,’ ” Fleury said.
The report will also recommend that the tunnel be accessible to all vehicles, not just transport trucks travelling between Quebec and the 417.
“If we’re going to build this part of infrastructure, we’re not just going to limit it to trucks, but we will mandate it for trucks,” Fleury said.
John Verbaas, who oversees the transportation portfolio for the Action Sandy Hill community association, said he had been told several times that the study’s release was imminent. Then he was told it would be in June. Then, a few weeks ago, September.
His patience remains firm, though he says the presence of heavy trucks on King Edward is something the community has had to face for more than four decades.
“If it gets the problem solved, it’s probably worth waiting for, but at the same time, there should be no excuses about dragging their feet,” he said.
“We do need to put a little pressure on them to keep things moving.”