­Action Sandy Hill re-affirms our position that any planning for interprovincial transportation changes must prioritize solutions that remove the non-local through truck traffic from the existing KERWN corridor.

This problem exists due to the lack of proper connection between the 417 and 5/50 interprovincial highway systems within the National Capital Region (NCR)  It has continued to grow and fester due to various factors, including disagreements and inaction at all three levels of government. Nearly 2000 non-local heavy trucks snake their way through heavily pedestrianized downtown streets, with tight turns through multiple intersections every day.  During peak periods of the day 200 trucks per hour travel down this corridor.  That is one truck every 18 seconds.  We need to move forward with a practical solution that addresses the truck problem.

A truck problem of this nature and scale to our knowledge does not exist in the downtown core of any other major city in Canada. Furthermore, the ongoing danger to pedestrians and cyclists is at odds with the City of Ottawa’s recent commitment to safe and walkable 15-minute neighbourhoods, as per the Official Plan.

Studies to date, including a recent draft report by the National Capital Commission (NCC), have shown that the construction of  additional bridge corridors in the NCR is unlikely to solve this interprovincial highway connectivity issue and as result offers poor solutions to the downtown truck problem. A new bridge cannot divert all of the non-local interprovincial truck traffic from the downtown and a possible truck ban to overcome this problem would be tricky and costly to enforce. Besides, an additional bridge would merely displace the truck problem into other communities on both sides of the Ottawa River. .

A downtown tunnel connection between the 417 and the existing Macdonald-Cartier bridge was the subject of a 2016 technical feasibility study. This study showed that such a tunnel can provide a significantly better solution to this problem while also removing tens of thousands of cars per day from downtown streets and reducing the delays that both cars and trucks now experience traversing the downtown to reach the Macdonald-Cartier bridge.  It is our position that a downtown tunnel must receive serious consideration as part of any contemplated changes to the interprovincial transportation system in the NCR and that the current NCC draft report fails to accomplish this.

The release of the draft NCC Long Term Interprovincial Transportation Study in November 2021 proposes to setup a monitoring framework to obtain additional facts before making any further decisions regarding new non-transit infrastructure.  ASH welcomes this opportunity to collect and report on data that would add transparency and accountability to future interprovincial infrastructure decisions.  Gathering better data at this time is wise, particularly considering potentially altered commuting patterns due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as increasingly rapid changes in transportation technologies.

The NCC’s monitoring framework, however, continues to leave unaddressed the demonstrated and plainly visible problems of the downtown truck route which have plagued the communities of Sandy Hill and Lower Town for the past 50+ years.

Thus, while planning authorities continue to deliberate the when/what of future infrastructure decisions, we call for action now on mitigating the impacts of interprovincial through trucks on the 6000 residents and thousands more visitors who live, work, and play along this corridor.  There has been literally no progress on this issue now for decades and the safety, health, and quality of life impacts of this truck traffic cannot be left unaddressed any longer. The current NCC plan anticipates that more actions will be required beyond building new infrastructure and given that is the case, work must begin now on implementing such actions.

Action Sandy Hill considers the NCC Long Term Integrated Interprovincial Crossings (LTIICS) study to be only a beginning and calls on decision makers to prioritize and work together towards solutions to the longstanding problem of interprovincial trucks in the downtown.