Skip to main content

O'Connor Street not built for traffic increases caused by Queen Elizabeth Driveway closure, city data suggests

The city of Ottawa's transportation committee will meet this week to discuss this summer's closure of the Queen Elizabeth Driveway.

The road, owned by the National Capital Commission, was partially closed to vehicular access for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week between Canada Day and Labour Day this year, as part of the NCC's active use campaign. Vehicles could not drive on the stretch of the QED between Fifth Avenue and Somerset Street between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily. Weekend closures of that stretch of the road continue until Thanksgiving Monday.

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe raised numerous complaints about the closure of the QED and of the NCC's choice in roads it closes for its active use program. Sutcliffe said the closure of the QED to cars was causing traffic issues on other streets in the neighbouring area, and he claimed that cyclists and pedestrians weren't using the roadway enough to justify closing it, noting there is a multi-use pathway nearby.

The NCC said its scenic routes, which also include the Kichi Zibi Mikan and the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway along the Ottawa River, were not meant as commuter routes, though the city report describes the QED as a "critical link" that connects the downtown core to several nearby neighbourhoods in the south end of city.

A report prepared for Thursday's transportation committee meeting includes data collected about the closure on the Queen Elizabeth Driveway from 2022, when the road was closed 24 hours a day between Canada Day and Labour Day, and some data from 2023.

According to the report, the city sent its data about the 2022 closure to the NCC in April 2023, asking the Crown corporation not to close the road to cars. The city instead suggested the NCC close Colonel By Drive south of Pretoria Bridge to Bronson Avenue over the summer. The NCC did not support the recommendation, city staff said.

City staff said that, in 2022, vehicular volume at the intersection of O'Connor Street and Fifth Avenue increased 54 to 57 per cent, and that O'Connor itself saw a significant increase in traffic, above the capacity the road was designed to manage.

According to the data, the city compared the hours of 4 p.m. to midnight on June 22, before the road was closed with July 15, after the road was closed. North-south movements on O'Connor Street at Fifth Avenue saw 508 additional cars over that eight-hour period, from 1,036 cars on June 22 to 1,544 on July 15. This is a 49 per cent increase, but the city report identifies it as a 67 per cent increase.

The city says O'Connor should be supporting no more than 1,000 vehicles per day but, on two dates studied for the report in 2022, that number reached an estimated 3,000, based on analysis of the eight-hour period studied.

Traffic volumes went up 20 per cent at Bank Street and Fifth Avenue and between 8 and 11 per cent at Bank and Isabella.

The report also says the Ottawa Fire Service had to reroute approximately 30 per cent of its service calls in the area during the month of August or experienced some delays while attempting to travel through closure points to get a call.

Data for 2023 has yet to be fully analyzed, but the report includes a four-hour snapshot of traffic on O'Connor Street north of Fifth Avenue, which shows 120 more cars used the street between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on July 21, 2023 compared to July 15, 2022. Traffic on O'Connor Street dropped after 8 p.m. because the QED reopened to cars, the report says.

The report also includes pedestrian and cyclist data, previously reported by CTV News Ottawa, which shows that just as many if not more pedestrians and cyclists used the roadway compared to the path more often than not on the dates studied. It rained on five of the days between July 25 and 30, and the active use program ended early on one of the days because of an Ottawa Redblacks game.

A look at the number of pedestrian and cyclist trips on Queen Elizabeth Driveway and the pathway on six days in July. The city set up a camera at Queen Elizabeth Driveway and Linden Avenue.

The city says it has met with the NCC and both parties agreed to share data on the closure.

"Traffic Services will continue to collect and analyze traffic volume and movement data to better understand impacts of the QED’s closure to the surrounding community," the report says under 'Next Steps'.

"Where applicable, Traffic Services will also continue to engage with internal City of Ottawa stakeholders to document impacts to public-facing services and to share these with the NCC." 

--With files from CTV News Ottawa's Josh Pringle. Top Stories

Here is Canada's unseasonably mild December forecast

December is predicted to be unseasonably mild across Canada, thanks to a "moderate-to-strong" El Nino and human-caused warming. Warming and precipitation trends will be stronger in some parts of the country than others, and severe weather is still possible, meteorologists say.

Stay Connected