City Fails An Improved Macdonald Parkway

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queens2It’s exciting that young people are taking an interest in Canada’s capital.

Too bad you have to go all the way to Kingston to find them.

Ten graduate students in urban studies from Queen’s University in Kingston spent three months looking at the parkland surrounding the Macdonald Parkway for possible alternative uses.

Their ideas are interesting and in some cases, original and innovative. At least more interesting than Mayor Jim Watson’s use of the parkway land for mass-transit light rail where no one lives. That is how you should use the Macdonald “scrubland,” as His Worship puts it.

So let’s look at the students’ ideas. The avenue of maples near the Champlain Bridge is symbolically and aesthetically interesting. More connections to the water are always a good idea. Elevated boardwalks around Mud Lake are worthwhile as long as their construction doesn’t destroy a thriving natural habitat the walks are intended to help save.

Other points … the parkway features the natural grandeur of the Ottawa River so we must be careful with the public art presented, if at all. Nature is very much a part of Canada and the auto drive to Parliament Hill that is the parkway should celebrate that. The idea of a skating rink near the parkway is a good one but it needs to be wind-protected as anyone will tell you walking near the river in winter when the northwest frigid air meets skater … it’s damn cold there.

But where the report falls down is in closing the westbound lanes to traffic and abandoning the Parkdale Avenue interchange.

This is no fault of the students. It is because of the failure of repeated municipal governments, including the present one, to deal with traffic.

Ottawa is so far behind on light rail that closing part of the parkway to traffic would make travel at rush-hour very difficult in the capital region. Roads are used most to get people downtown and back and the loss of that would be crippling to the necessary flow of traffic in the community.

Current plans for light rail are horribly expensive and the line is far too short to do anything of note to make commuting easier. Expansion is many years, many decades, perhaps in the future.

So while it would be nice to close half the parkway, such a move would seriously affect traffic and, accordingly, the city’s economic future.

All good ideas are appreciated. Too bad the municipal government has made some of them impossible.

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