City releases study on feasibility of downtown truck tunnel

A tunnel between the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge and Highway 417 for mixed traffic is technically possible, according to a recently completed feasibility study.

The City of Ottawa undertook the study with a funding contribution from the Government of Ontario to explore the tunnel option as a means of reducing truck traffic on downtown streets. A report on the study was released this week for public information and comment.

When an NCC-led study to examine new Ontario-Québec bridge options east of downtown was terminated before it was concluded, the City of Ottawa and Province of Ontario agreed to look at the technical feasibility of a tunnel to reduce the impact of heavy-truck traffic on the aesthetics and liveability of downtown communities.

I personally believe this tunnel may be worthy of support but following the guideline that the tunnel is connected directly to the Queensway without disrupting local traffic. However, while this is still in the early stages, I will await this item to come to committee and look forward to a robust discussion.

The $750,000 feasibility study, funded equally by the City and the Government of Ontario, has concluded, and the preliminary cost estimate for construction is between $1.7 billion and $2 billion.

The 3.4-kilometre tunnel would extend with two lanes in each direction from the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge to Highway 417 at Vanier Parkway and Riverside Drive via a cross-town route under Lowertown and Sandy Hill.

The forecasted traffic demand that would use this route is too small to justify an investment in a truck-only tunnel. Thirty-five per cent of truck traffic currently using downtown streets would not use the tunnel because they need to make local on-street deliveries or pick-ups. Furthermore, any trucks transporting dangerous goods would be prohibited from the tunnel due to safety concerns.

If a tunnel were to be built, it would be available for mixed-traffic use and would divert between 20,000 and 25,000 cars and trucks per day. This tunnel project is not part of the City’s affordable transportation network plan, as outlined in the 2013 Transportation Master Plan.

The study and a staff report will be considered at Transportation Committee on Wednesday, September 7. Further discussions with the Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada are required regarding next steps.

This was a technical feasibility study and therefore public consultation was not undertaken; however, the City is releasing the study well in advance of the Transportation Committee meeting to give residents time to read the report. Visit ottawa.ca for more information and to read the report.

I would encourage all residents to review this now as this is a great opportunity to have your say regarding future transportation options within the City.