Building Better and Smarter Suburbs and Infrastructure Standards Review: Arterial Road Cross-Sections

Another Building Better Smarter Suburbs (BBSS) item was also approved at Planning Committee, involving changes to the guidelines governing arterial roads in new subdivisions. The approved modifications are largely related to cycling facilities and medians. They aim to improve road design, making arterial roads more economical, practical, functional and effective.


The proposed Arterial Road cross-sections are part of a series of BBSS initiatives aimed at improving streets in new subdivisions. Other ongoing or forthcoming BBSS initiatives include an update to the existing 16.5 metre and 18 metre local road cross-sections, the potential introduction of new local road cross-sections, and a review of existing collector road cross-sections. An update to the Urban Design Guidelines for Greenfield Neighbourhoods is another initiative and it will include new guidance for street network design and traffic calming.


As part of the Ottawa Arterial Road Cross-Section Review, two specific areas stood out as having the greatest potential for revisions that would satisfy the working group’s objective: cycling facilities and the application of medians. The review took into consideration that the City is moving towards implementing its Complete Streets policy while also looking at street design through the lens of Multi Modal Level of Service which is the level of service for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. Consideration was also given that, at the same time, the City is looking at opportunities to reduce the cost of implementing arterial roads that serve new communities.

Cycling Facilities on Arterial Roads

The working group looked at how to best provide cycling facilities and whether it is still appropriate to continue to provide on-road painted bike lanes along arterial roads. After reviewing the application of various cycling facilities, the working group recommends the use of cycle tracks instead of on-road bike lanes on urban arterials. Cycle tracks provide a higher level of cycling comfort and safety, and can be delivered more cost effectively than on-road bike lanes. However, using multi-use pathways may be appropriate under certain circumstances such as in areas where there is low pedestrian demand, along natural and open space areas, or where there are constraints to the width of the right-of-way.

Application of Medians on Arterial Roads

Medians are implemented in a roadway corridor with a wide range of varied functions including separating opposing traffic, creating space for left turn movements and providing refuge to pedestrians. For the application of medians along arterial roads, the working group recommends that medians are not necessarily required along all arterial roads in developing community contexts. For new arterial roads posted 70km/h or less, medians are not necessary unless there are area-specific traffic safety considerations, regardless of the number of travel lanes. Where there will be a high frequency of adjacent private approaches served by the arterial road, medians may be required to intercept left-turn movements. However, for multi-lane arterials with a posted speed limit at or above 80km/h a median is recommended, and in locations where there is a regular occurrence of left turn lanes, a 1.5-metre-wide raised median is recommended. In cases where the arterial right-of-way is narrowed as a result of removing a median, the right-of-way would be widened at intersections to accommodate additional space requirements such as separated left and or right turning movements. The right-of-way would also be widened at roundabouts identified in planning and transportation studies


With the suite of Arterial Road Cross-Sections developed for this report, staff estimate that there is a potential development charge cost savings of $1.77 million based on changes to cycling infrastructure and a savings of $10.28 million based on changes related to medians, for arterial road projects already planned between now and 2031.