Truck Tunnel Is A Waste Of Money

King Edward Trucks


When Mayor Jim Watson introduced his idea of a truck tunnel, most people thought he wasn’t serious.

Primarily Watson but other Ottawa-area politicians as well had succumbed to the powerful interests of Rockcliffe and Manor Park to reject very quickly the results of a National Capital Commission study that supported a cross-border bridge at Kettle Island.

Remember the NCC studied the idea. Watson just pulled his idea out of a hat.

Watson, with a tenuous grasp on administration, threw away a chance to build an iconic bridge that would get trucks carrying dangerous loads out of downtown. Price tag: $1 billion.

Photo above: a truck winding through downtown Ottawa.

The truck tunnel was perceived as a way to get himself out of a sticky political situation: essentially choosing the will of Rockcliffe and Manor Park residents over those in Lowertown who are besieged by heavy trucks using the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge to Gatineau.

The truck tunnel wouldn’t bother anyone politically which is the prime directive for Watson. So that was the way he could extricate himself from a sticky wicket. Most people didn’t think he was serious. The study would be studied and then it would fade away. Sticky wicket gone.

Except that Watson is serious. The mayor even went to transportation committee (Watson is not a member) last week to crack the whip on some grumbling committee members (a few Watson supporters) who are very dubious about this plan. However as good little doobies do, committee members empowered His Worship to seek funds for this endeavour. Truck tunnel price: $2 billion.

Who could believe it? He’s serious about building a truck tunnel under downtown at a price double that of the nixed Kettle Island bridge.

The point of building a new route across the Ottawa River is to get dangerous trucks out of downtown. You know, the ones carrying loads such as propane or gasoline. Have a gasoline truck turn over and the fuel spill into the sewer system and then a spark. It’s happened in other locales.

Unfortunately, Watson in his snap decision didn’t take into account that tunnels and dangerous goods don’t mix. So now we are told dangerous goods won’t be going through the tunnel.

That’s good but the point of getting trucks out of downtown is to get dangerous loads out of the core. Now trucks won’t use the tunnel.

So we don’t solve the problem.

And we don’t solve the problem at a cost of $2 billion.

Don’t we have a better use for $2 billion? Say light rail to Kanata?

And the accumulated municipal debt is said to have passed $2 billion.

The rationale for the truck tunnel, the cost of the truck tunnel and the truck tunnel’s effect on Ottawa’s debt are out of control.

The city’s financial welfare is being sacrificed to the ineffective and silly idea.

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20 thoughts on “Truck Tunnel Is A Waste Of Money

  1. A tunnel UNDER the City for trucks.

    Now a tunnel UNDER the City for SOME trucks. ( ones that won’t be carrying dangerous goods) – cost $2 billion

    Solutions :
    a/ remove any definitions that describe dangerous goods; thereby, making all goods safe goods – cost 0
    b/ build an elevated roadway OVER the city (for all trucks) – cost $2 zillion (that’s z as in zebra)
    c/ designate Ottawa a No-Truck-Zone ( like a no-fly-zone ) – cost undeterminable
    d/ go back to the bridge at Kettle Island per NCC study


  2. Sometimes silly, expensive ideas are the best ideas. Watson is a visionary. Let’s skip quickly through the assessment stages and get shovels into the ground already. Tunnels are en vogue and time’s-a-wastin’.


    1. Silly ideas are silly for a reason. And what do you mean “tunnels are en vogue”? Are bridges not “en vogue”?

      Furthermore, the transportation committee has already stated that a $6-million EA study (probably taking up to three years) would be necessary. The city wants this cost to be shared with the feds and province, i.e. each level of government paying $2-million. However: “Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder and George Darouze both worried the study funding – which committee directed staff to include in next year’s budget – will leapfrog over other projects. But transportation manager John Manconi said existing EA budgets won’t be bumped” (Ottawa Business Journal, September 2016).

      So, I guess we just borrow $2-million, and add it onto the city debt.


      1. … or the $2M being directed at this project will not be added to the severely depleted reserve funds – those same reserve funds that had $42M vacuumed out of them last year.


  3. As reported in the Ottawa Citizen: “While some say the bridge would get more traffic out of the downtown, the Mayor says the tunnel is the only solution, ‘we’ve got to stop repeating the past, the bridge was going to be divisive, it was not going to be supported by at least one of the key partners and we had to find something that was more sensible.'”

    Ah yes, blame someone else (i.e. the province) for this problem — how Watsonian. But if people go back to the past, when Watson was a cabinet minister in the McGuinty government, then they will find that there was no protest by MPP Watson regarding the NCC study for an interprovincial bridge. And, at that same time, both Ottawa and Gatineau city councils were agreeable to a bridge solution.

    The only difference in the equation has been Mayor Jim Watson (elected Mayor of Ottawa in 2010). Watson has played politics with this issue, claiming two principal reasons for his flip-flop: 1) It would do harm to the local community; 2) It is too expensive.

    First, the Aviation Parkway was designed for this very purpose and in no way destroys this community. Indeed, this is rich coming from Watson who regularly disregards zoning issues and is quick to label people opposed to new city projects as NIMBYs.

    The cost issue was likewise disingenuous since the city was not funding this project. Indeed, Watson is currently engaged in getting the feds and province to entirely fund the tunnel project. And even more ridiculous was that Watson was claiming that any money for a Kettle Island bridge would have been better spent on new public transit. (n.b. The Kettle Island bridge was designed to provide two dedicated bus lanes, while this tunnel has none.) Indeed, Watson had the Ontario Minster of Transportation drinking his Kool-Aid: “Murray said he’s met with Mayor Jim Watson and believes the LRT projects could alleviate the downtown congestion making truck traffic a burden” (Ottawa Sun, June 17, 2013).

    So why, after the $750,000 feasibility study found that a truck tunnel will cost twice as much as the Kettle Island bridge project, is Watson not saying that this money for a tunnel is not better spent on public transit? Indeed, there is twice the justification for denying this project.

    Ottawa voters have to ask themselves in 2018 whether four more years of Mayor Jim Watson is feasible or unfeasible?


  4. Some additional facts:

    Cost: The proposed bridge at Kettle Island was costed at 1.16B$ in 2012, in order to compare to the tunnel cost that bridge cost should be inflated by three years of construction inflation costs

    Trucks: The Kettle Island bridge study estimated that the new bridge would attract about 1/2 of the trucks out of downtown (go read the study of you don’t believe it)…a tunnel would do better than that.

    The Bulldog continues to ignore the reality that the City of Gatineau is not likely to permit the City of Ottawa to move 100 per cent of the King Edward truck problem onto Montee Paiement in Gatineau. Why should they? Share is fair. The bridge study team recognized that. So do we build a $1.3B bridge that only solves half the truck problem. Doesn’t seem like a no-brainer to me.

    Conundrum: Which is worse? 100 gasoline/diesel/LPG trucks a day that might still drive downtown because they could not use a downtown tunnel or the 1,000 transport trucks per day that would still end up downtown if there were a bridge at Kettle Island instead. (And this is assuming that various governments can successfully coerce the City of Gatineau into accepting all of those 100 gasoline tankers per day on their streets instead of Ottawa’s).

    A difficult decision and one that requires more debate than what we have seen coming from The Bulldog thus far.

    Disclaimer: I do not live in Manor Park or Rockcliffe (or Gatineau)


      1. Ken, the City of Gatineau passed a resolution of council in 2009 calling on the City of Ottawa to keep King Edward open to trucks. Gatineau wants the bridge but not all of the trucks. Should Ottawa be allowed to dump all of its truck problem on Gatineau? Here is the text of the motion:

        Ce conseil est d’avis qu’il est inacceptable que tous les vehicules lourds soient transferes de l’avenue King Edward vers la montee Paiement. Ce conseil demande a la Ville d’Ottawwa que le corridor Macdonald-Cartier/King Edward demeure un corridor de transit pour les vehicules lourds.


          1. Hi Ken, Gatineau could pass a bylaw to stop all trucks from Montee Paiement, just like you want Ottawa to pass a bylaw to stop all trucks from King Edward. Obviously that is stupid and not going to happen because trucks have to go somewhere. So instead both Montee Paiement and King Edward would remain open to trucks.

            We (citizens) paid $7 million for a bridge study whose engineers studied this in depth (yes they were counting) and they concluded in this scenario that the trucks by their own choice would split more or less evenly between the two. It’s all very clearly documented.


            1. John:

              Trucks can only travel on trucks routes unless they are local delivery. It would be very easy for Ottawa to declare King Edward truck-free and police it.

              I always thought the half and half on the NCC report was a bit faulty.

              Then if Gatineau wants to block trucks from the Kettle Island bridge … well then Gatineau has a problem.




              1. Ken, What should give Ottawa the right to block block all trucks from King Edward except for local deliveries but not Gatineau from its streets?. And if both ‘block’ non local trucks as you suggest could be an eventuality, then believe me the whole region together has a problem, both Ottawa and Gatineau and not just Gatineau.

                Ken, I don’t know why you can’t see that maybe this is a problem that is a bit more difficult than you make it out to be. Hopefully some of the readers of this blog will have learned a few things and will think about it a bit more deeply.

                I think I’ve taken this about as far as it can go. I’ll leave you with the last word which is what you seem to need to do.


                1. John:

                  One other point, John.

                  Perhaps you haven’t noticed but there are 11 or 12 posts on The Bulldog today. The news has been flying fast and furious today.

                  So I’ve been writing comments to you between blasting out posts as fast as I can. Sorry if my comments aren’t as fulsome as you would like but I don’t have time to make a complete argument.

                  Maybe I should turn that into a post.




  5. Oh heck! It’s only our tax dollars and our public’s safety at issue, what is so important about that? Obviously, to our Mayor, not relevant at all. Studies were done and paid for, it was decided that the Kettle Island bridge was the best choice, now, we are to pay for more studies. To what avail?

    The truck’s are coming through Ottawa because they can and because their travel time/expense is greatly reduced by taking this route. Ban truck access, they will then be directly affected and will get directly involved in this idiotic discussion that has been going on for far too many years

    As was stated in the title of this post…a “Truck Tunnel is a Waste of Money”.

    Anne Marie


  6. Has anyone costed the idea of dirigibles smoothly carrying heavy trucks from the Macdonald Cartier bridge to the 417? Why not?


    1. Brocklebank:

      With the expertise developed over the years at the Gatineau Balloon Festival, I think we could become the world leader in truck dirigibles.

      Pitch that idea to the mayor and he’ll create a $2 million study of the idea.




    2. Brocklebank,
      They already built the world’s largest cargo plane, Airlander 10 – dubbed “the flying bum”. It could probably carry those trucks; oops- it did however crash during its 2nd test flight. ( just a little crash though ) Maybe come back to that lifting trucks into the sky at a later date.


  7. I have been trying for some time to discover what the origin/destination points of these trucks are. Do these trucks originate/terminate their journeys in Ottawa-Gatineau? In other words, do the residents of these two cities gain anything from the existence of these trucks besides pollution, wear and tear on our roads and injuries or deaths for pedestrians and cyclists?

    Another benefit that has recently appeared for the bridge is the development of the old Rockcliffe air base which will bring thousands of residents to that area. A bridge east of St. Laurent would not only take the trucks out of downtown; it would mean that east-enders could cross the river without going downtown on either side of the river. It doesn’t matter whether the Aviation Parkway or Shefford Road (the shorter alternative) is the route from the 417 to the bridge, it would certainly improve on the current situation. Now, in order to get from Orleans to Lac Beauchamp, for example, you have to drive into Ottawa, cross the river and then drive out of downtown Gatineau to a place you can almost see from Orleans. The alternative is to go to the ferry at Cumberland and backtrack from Masson.

    The truck tunnel won’t make any difference to the traffic on the various bridges since it will return the trucks to their current route on the Ottawa side of the MacDonald-Cartier bridge.

    Building the bridge and declaring it the only heavy-truck route across the river would take all that traffic out of downtown and add a river crossing for east-end residents. You could even have separated lanes for trucks and other vehicles which would probably increase safety for all. And, of course, add segregated bike lanes.
    The pro-bridge people need to start organizing again. Maybe the tunnel will be the issue that buries Watson.


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