Ottawa's downtown core might soon brace itself for the construction of a tunnel that would accommodate the city's forthcoming light-rail system. Business support for the plan is high and many councillors are on board, but not all observers are on the same page.
One of Ottawa's leading green thinkers has doubts about the effectiveness of a downtown subway. David Chernushenko told Public Transit in Ottawa that there are better ways to approach light rail on downtown streets—even those as potentially cluttered as Albert and Slater streets.
"I think the subway alternative is a complete and utter waste of money. I think it’s the wrong approach, unless Ottawa is going to have a subway system—and I don’t believe we’re big enough to merit a subway system at the moment," he said.
Chernushenko added that although business support for the tunnel is currently high, the affected streets above ground are in for an overhaul that could affect revenue.
"It’s going to be one hell of a massive dig. It’s going to be a couple of years of major, major disruption. And I don’t think they thought through that," he said. "[Streets] are as blocked off above as they would be if it were entirely surface-length [rail] that was going in."
Businesses on Bank Street have complained about lower pedestrian traffic during the ongoing rehabilitation of that roadway. Albert and Slater are far less commercially intense, but those businesses that do exist on those arteries might be forced to weather some bad times.
Chernushenko cut the tunnel idea some slack and suggested that because a tunnel, if built, will be part of the larger light-rail project, it is still good news for Ottawa at the end of the day.
"Ultimately, whatever we do with our taxes and the inconvenience, we have to prepare ourselves to say it’s going to be a big inconvenience for a better future."
Part Four of David Chernushenko's Reflections on Ottawa Transit, a TransitOttawa.ca exclusive:
Part One: Introduction
Part Two: Cycling
Part Three: Inside the Greenbelt
Part Four: Serving the suburbs
Part Five: Ottawa's subway