Friday, March 6, 2015

City and NCC come to agreement on Western Corridor alignment

In a joint press conference this morning, the National Capital Commission and the City of Ottawa announced that they have come to a mutually acceptable agreement on the alignment of the Western Corridor of the city's LRT project, stretching from Dominion to Cleary stations.

The agreement, which came out of the much-ballyhooed 100-day truce mayor Jim Watson and outgoing MP John Baird agreed to, will see a fully-buried tunnel connecting the two stations. The tunnel, as illustrated above, will run underneath a re-aligned Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway from just after Dominion Station to Cleary Avenue, at which point it will turn south towards Richmond Road. The section underneath the Parkway will be a "stacked" transportation corridor, where the roadway will run on top of the underground rail line. There are a lot of other details in the memorandum of understanding, which you can read on the NCC website if you'd like.

From there, it seems to proceed as envisioned in the Richmond Underground proposal, hitting the new Cleary and New Orchard stations before emerging from the tunnel nearer to Lincoln Fields station. The only real difference between this one and the Richmond Underground alignment is the fully-buried tunnel under the Parkway, the NCC's major sticking point. UPDATE: According to more detailed information on the city's website, the alignment will transition from under Richmond Road to under [the] western portion of Byron Linear Park," where it will presumably continue toward New Orchard station.

There remain several key groups, including the First Unitarian Congregation and Neighbours for Smart Western Rail, who will likely be opposed to this alignment, but it generally meets the broad needs of most stakeholders:

  • It won't affect sightlines along the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway: In fact, it should improve them, with a realigned roadway that increases potential greenspace as well as two proposed cycling/pedestrian connections from the residential area to the riverside (illustrated above, connecting Dominion and Cleary stations to the riverside).
  • Parkway buffer is retained: There will still be a 30-metre tree buffer between the roadway/rail tunnel and the residence bordering the affected areas of the Parkway.
  • It won't affect the Byron Linear Park.
  • It adds stations where people are: The addition of Cleary and New Orchard stations to this stretch of train corrects a longstanding flaw of the existing Transitway, increasing access to areas that weren't served by high-speed transit previously. It won't increase access as much as a Carling alignment might have, but it's still pretty good (especially if trams are one day added to Carling, as is proposed).
  • It won't increase cost: Apparently the work done here can be done for the same $980M budget as the previous alignment.
There are still a lot of details to work out, of course, but it is promising that both sides were able to come to some sort of agreement. The City will host an information session on March 30 at City Hall to gather feedback on this proposed alignment.

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