Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Stage 2 Details: Connaught Park Tunnel

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.


ChzPlz said...

Is it just me, or are the planned Queensview and Pinecrest stations extremely close together? I understand the Mayor's briefing also described a pedestrian bridge over the 417 to connect Queensview Station to the Ikea mall. I can appreciate the interest, but with a bridge about a block away I'll be surprised if the Queensview station + ped bridge ever happens.

QTN would be pretty well serviced by Pinecrest and Lincoln Fields. QTS would be serviced by Pinecrest and Iris.

I'm a transit rider living in QTS, so I'd certainly benefit, but at first glance it appears to be an expensive addition.

Peter Raaymakers said...

@ChzPlz: I'd say you're right; Queensview and Pinecrest look to be closer than any other two LRT stations aside from Lyon and Parliament. I'm not sure why the decision was made to add in a station at Queensview, but it might result in some more intensification or retail/commercial development along Queensview Drive.

That's a question worth asking at one of the upcoming open houses, if you've got time!

canophone said...

@ChzPls: I'd say it might have something to do with the existing OC Transpo bus garage, as some early morning routes on the 96 stop at it and wouldn't any longer. Perhaps something similar would happen with the OC Transpo garages/rail yards near St. Laurent.

Anonymous said...

I think it is more likely that the original plan was created in 1994 when it was less certain as to what would be along Queensview. There were a couple of high-tech shops (including HP) so there was an expectation by the City that it might become a booming tech area; with towers full of jobs. There was also talk of a redevelopment of the Pinecrest Mall and Baxter Road area. In the time since, the area north of the 417 has been populated with low-rise, low density buildings (like furniture stores) and IKEA has taken over the Pinecrest Mall.

The City Council Approved Plan, as of now, is the 1996 EA for the Transitway routing, including the extra station and bridge at Queensview; therefore that is what needs to be shown. There will need to be an amendment (at least, if not an entire re-do) of the 1996 EA since the technology is now going to be LRT instead of buses. It is possible that the Queensview Station (and its bridge over the 417) will be deferred or removed.