Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Among the many interesting facets of the City of Ottawa's proposed Transportation Master Plan and its $2.5B worth of public transit projects (that "Stage 2" thing) is the acceleration of a light-rail extension to Bayshore Station. This is likely interesting to many in the city's west end, but particularly to me from a personal perspective since I live right near the proposed Connaught tunnel in the Queensway Terrace North community.
As some background: The proposed Connaught tunnel is nothing is nothing new. It was initially proposed back in 1994 (and approved in 1996) when the city was looking for a more efficient way of getting buses to Bayshore Station. Without room beside the Queensway, it seemed like cutting through the community north of the Queensway--appropriately known as Queensway Terrace North--like so:
In 2007, though, that plan was changed to the less costly (by an estimated $30M) option of expropriating 25 houses on the south side of Roman Avenue in order to run a Transitway parallel to the Queensway towards Pinecrest Station. This plan resulted in a huge campaign to "save Roman Avenue," and in 2011 the city reversed its prior decision and went back to the Connaught Park bus tunnel idea at an estimated cost of $138M.
As the map above indicates, the tunnel as proposed will branch off the Southwest Transitway north of the Queensway into NCC land, taking a bridge over Pinecrest Creek before descending into a tunnel under Connaught Park, Connaught Avenue, and the Queensview bus garage before coming to the surface around a brand new Queensview Station and then proceeding to Pinecrest Station and onto Bayshore.
Of course, there's an elephant in this room: This proposal will definitely require the support of the National Capital Commission, and will definitely impact the Pinecrest Creek corridor. We're all in for at least a few more years of discussions between the NCC and the City, with the Richmond Underground still awaiting approval from the NCC as well as this request. The City will also have to go through a complete environmental assessment (EA) process, since the EA that had been completed in 1996 was specifically for a bus tunnel.
The big development for this project in the Stage 2 plan (aside from the acceleration of the tunnel's construction) is the decision to bypass the BRT set-up and move straight to LRT. The extension from Lincoln Fields Station to Bayshore Station via the Connaught Park tunnel has been estimated at $400M, although it's unclear exactly how much of that is for the tunnel directly.
This spur to Bayshore is something that Kanata North councillor Marianne Wilkinson has been pushing for since January of 2011. It's a component of the plan that would hugely improve the transit experience for commuters from Kanata, allowing them to transfer to trains at Bayshore and continue on their trip much more quickly, in my estimation. With the huge renovations being done to Bayshore, it's becoming a major attraction, as well; connecting it to the main network is a sensible (if, at $400M, expensive) addition to the revised plan.
It's been clear for quite some time that the city needed a new way to connect Pinecrest and Bayshore to the main Transitway corridor; merging with the Queensway (as express buses and the 96 do) is unnecessarily complicated for riders and drivers, while the 97's route along Richmond Road and Carling Avenue can be exceptionally slow at times. The Connaught Tunnel is the city's chosen solution to the bottleneck right now, but it'll be interesting to see how the plan moves forward from here.