‘Ottawa’ City Ordered University of Ottawa to Remove Tunnel Closure Info From Website
A city official ordered the University of Ottawa to remove information from the school’s website related to the closure of a pedestrian and cycling tunnel underneath Nicholas Street and the Transitway, documents obtained by Postmedia reveal.
Campus station may appear to be part of the university’s property, but the Transitway and (future) LRT station are actually on city land. The city announced in February that the station would close on April 24 — in the midst of final exams at the university — but questions remained about what would happen to the tunnel, and when.
In a March 29 email, Alanna Lacroix, a member of the LRT project’s stakeholder relations team, told the university’s Kevin Casey to remove an update that had been posted to the “Facilities” portal of the university’s website (it’s unclear what exactly the university’s update said, but Lacroix’s email suggests it contained information about the tunnel’s closure).
“The Councillors have been informed, but they have outstanding issues that need to be resolved this week. Additionally, the exact closure dates of the tunnel have not yet been confirmed,” Lacroix wrote.
Casey, a project manager in the university’s technical services, operations and maintenance department, agreed to take down the information temporarily but said it would be reposted on April 4, the following Monday.
“This is very important to uOttawa because we have summer students, conferences starting up in early May. These people have to be advised of the possible delays for their daily commutes to and from classes and events especially since a lot of our conference guests will be staying in our two residence buildings across the canal,” Casey wrote.
Lacroix replied to say she’d have confirmation later in the week, but wrote back on April 1 with the following: “I would like to ask that the University hold off on posting this information until further notice. The Rail Implementation Office has yet to approve OLRTC’s proposal to close the tunnel and the City of Ottawa has not yet had the opportunity to finalize their communications strategy.”
“I understand and appreciate that the University wants to be as proactive as possible about the closure but I also want to ensure that all the information posted on your website is factual and reflects the outcomes of discussions with OLRTC (Ottawa Light Rail Transit Constructors).”
Lacroix then pledged to give Casey permission to post the information the following week.
But almost a week later, on April 7, Casey urged university communications officer Alexander Latus to “make arrangements” to release the information through the university’s communication channels.
“Students are getting upset when they ask questions about the pedestrian tunnel being open or closed during the exam period and are told that uOttawa does not have that information yet,” Casey wrote in an email.
“I can understand their apprehension as exams approach. I think that we should start telling them that the tunnel will be closed from April 24th, 2016 until the end of August 2016. This way they can plan ahead and arrive for their exams on time. We have a responsibility to our students and clients when it comes to something as important as exams.”
Lacroix was copied on Casey’s email and replied within minutes.
“As per my email last week, I ask that the uOttawa does not post anything public about the tunnel closure. Again, I need to emphasis that the Rail Implementation Office has yet to approve OLRTC’S proposal (Lacroix’s original email bolded and underlined the previous text) to close the tunnel and the City of Ottawa has not yet had the opportunity to finalize their communications strategy.”
The tunnel would not close until after exams, Lacroix added.
The following week, an April 13 story in the Citizen was the first to confirm publicly that the tunnel would be closed to pedestrians and cyclists from early May until late August (the exact dates weren’t confirmed by the city for several more days).
The next day, April 14, Lacroix wrote Casey another email: “I will give you a call this afternoon with an update on the timing. Sorry for the delay.”