Bridge Just A Wasted Wonderful Opportunity

Two young people explore the abandoned Prince of Wales Bridge.

Let’s get our priorities in order here.

The O-Train was started as a pilot project in 2001 to see how the city would respond to light rail. The reaction was outstanding but our politicians and bureaucrats let us down.

A decade-and-a-half later, the O-Train remains our only commuter-rail line. Disgusting.

But what the Bob Chiarelli administration did was use existing infrastructure for a modern purpose.

To connect that O-Train line to the Prince of Wales Bridge and across to Gatineau would cost about $40 million. The Confederation Line costs $2.1 billion. As that line expands, start piling billions on billions.

Reusing the Prince of Wales Bridge is not exactly an original idea. Over that same 15 years, politicians have tried to move it forward with some resistance from the City of Gatineau.

But here is one thing for certain … it would be used. Bridges across the Ottawa River run at about $1 billion a pop. This one is $40 million for transit and maybe more were it combined with bicycle and pedestrian lanes. Perhaps the city could do a thing or two with Lemieux Island in the middle of the span.

Whatever the cost, it’s a fraction of the current light-rail plans and the commuter use would be stupendous. Residents are eager to have another bridge available for those who have a cross-river ride to work. Furthermore, it would be one more way to bring the national capital region together.

So easy is the bridge and yet not done.

Ottawans are not getting the leadership they deserve.

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3 thoughts on “Bridge Just A Wasted Wonderful Opportunity

  1. Some commenters were reminding me that I should not neglect to criticize our city councillors for their lack of leadership. Again, our council members have been the willing producers of the Jim Watson show. And the Prince of Wales Bridge (POWB) topic has been no different. Councillors Jeff Leiper and Catherine McKenney oppose the idea of shutting off access to this bridge (and spending over $250,000 on gates), but that is as far as they go.

    No one has been bold enough to challenge Mayor Jim Watson’s claim regarding the need to expand the LRT system to the suburbs without any delay. That is Watson’s election ticket. The suburbs are rich with votes, and his plan aims to gain those voters’ attention. Indeed, the talk about the Stage 2 expansion of the LRT system has been all about how to get LRT to the suburbs faster, especially Kanata.

    However, if people turn back to the original public transit debate, then they will recall that downtown congestion was the major issue, i.e buses backed up downtown at rush hour. There were surface LRT solutions to this problem, but we have gone with a tunnel. So that problem (when the Confederation tunnel opens in 2018) is now behind us. How to move forward?

    The Transitway works well enough to get people from the suburbs to downtown. It does eventually need to transition over to a rail system with greater capacity, efficiency, comfort, etc., as well as avoiding transfers as much as possible. But should that, considering our limited public transit development budget, be the priority for now? I do not believe that it should be.

    City Council has been very clear about its desire for intensification. And the link has been made time and again between intensification and the public transit system. Indeed, the city is now recommending that new downtown developments have less parking requirements, i.e. to force people to adopt public transit. The intensification is happening in the city core. Therefore, that area has to be the priority for public transit upgrades.

    A related issue is the Trillium line. It needs to be double tracked before the city even expands it (e.g. to the airport) or adds new stations. The giant tower developments that have been proposed for Carling Avenue need a reliable Trillium line (currently not able to meet the frequency goal set by the $60-million Trillium line upgrades), or else people will stick to their cars.

    Likewise, the city has been so concerned with getting rid of the OC Transpo bus congestion on Slater and Albert Streets, that it has paid little attention to the STO bus congestion problem. And that is where the POWB comes into play. Not only will an Ottawa-to-Hull LRT circuit get these STO buses off of downtown Ottawa streets (e.g. Wellington Street), but it will also play an important role in the intensification of the downtown area. Indeed, at the winning announcement of the development plans for the LeBreton Flats, Watson was stating how the POWB was going to play a significant public transit role in the intensification of this property — Watson conveniently failed to mention any timetable for this POWB transit project.

    Ottawans need bold leaders who will deliver a sustainable public transit system, and not cowardly politicians who are solely motivated by short-term political gains.


    1. Sheridan,

      Well stated. I would only add that we greatly need politicians who can think outside their own box and respect the needs of the City as a whole.

      Anne Marie


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