Ever since the Macdonald-Cartier bridge was built in the 1960’s Lowertown and the Northwest section of Sandy Hill have continued to struggle/deteriorate in large part because 2,500 heavy trucks (1600 of which are tractor trailers) per day travel down Waller, Rideau, and King Edward streets. This truck route is a major impediment to the revitalization of Rideau Street and King Edward Ave and in achieving an integrated sense of connection between Sandy Hill, Lowertown, and the Byward Market.
Attempts by the City to resolve this problem by completing a long anticipated roadway connection between the Macdonald-Cartier bridge and the Vanier Parkway were defeated via an OMB ruling in the 1999-2000 timeframe. At that time the OMB judge said relief should come in the form of constructing a new bridge in the east end which could serve as an alternate truck route. Some believe this is the right solution and a bridge should be built as soon as possible (however as of 2022 there are no concrete plans for any such project anytime in the near future). Others believe different approaches such as a bypass tunnel connecting from the 417 under Sandy Hill/Lowertown to the southern end of the existing Macdonald-Cartier bridge would be a better solution. The tunnel approach has been discounted by the NCC in a 2021 Interprovincial Crossings study under the argument that it does not provide enough new and additional “across-the-river” capacity to meet the anticipated demand for more auto-commuters.
The larger risk is that no solution is forthcoming at all as there are many opposed to the building of a new bridge in the east end of the City and others who fear that even if a new bridge existed that the City of Ottawa would be unable to force all commercial truck traffic to detour to the proposed east end bridge. This is a complex issue and continued pressure on all levels of government will be required to keep progressing towards a solution to this unacceptable truck route situation.
A more detailed discussion of the proposed new east end bridge and the issues related to whether it will in fact lead to any substantial solution to the problems of inter-provincial trucks in downtown can be found at the Sustainable Solutions website. Considerable data is available on the website concerning the volume and nature of downtown truck traffic (http://www.ssd-ottawa.ca/interprovincial-truck-studies) and explanations why diverting all of these trucks to a potential bridge in the east end is fraught with challenges. There is a very real risk that even after spending 1.8B$ (cost estimate as per “Refresh Study by WSP in 2020) to construct a new bridge in the east end that we will still be faced with thousands of inter-provincial trucks per day going through Waller, Rideau, King Edward.