City of Ottawa holding talks with feds on transferring ownership of Wellington Street
The city of Ottawa is holding "investigative discussions" with the federal government on potentially transferring ownership of Wellington Street following the "Freedom Convoy" occupation last winter.
City Manager Steve Kanellakos appeared before a parliamentary committee studying the future of the parliamentary precinct, including whether Wellington Street should be permanently closed to vehicles.
Kanellakos told MPs that council directed staff to initiate discussions with federal officials regarding the future function of the road, as well as the potential transfer of the road to the federal government.
"(Public Services and Procurement Canada) have expressed in the past a federal interest in taking over the street, and potentially other streets for a more cohesive management of federal assets in the precinct," Kanellakos said. "It is expected that these investigative discussions will take some time to conclude."
The city manager says there are many issues to consider in discussions on the future of Wellington Street, including the impact on traffic circulation through the downtown core, access to the city's existing underground infrastructure for asset management and "the real estate value" of the street.
National Capital Commission CEO Tobi Nussbaum told the committee the NCC is in discussions with Public Services and Procurement Canada on who will be the lead in discussions with the city on the possible transfer of ownership of Wellington Street.
"We are engaged with PSPC on a discussion to make sure we've got a full scope of all of the issues that need to be raised and the hope is that we can engage the city of Ottawa soon on some of the details that have been discussed so far," Nussbaum said Thursday morning.
Wellington Street has remained closed between Elgin Street and Bank Street since the end of the "Freedom Convoy" at the end of February.
Nussbaum says the NCC has a "very open mind" on closing Wellington Street to vehicles permanently.
"We see a lot of advantages to focusing that portion of Wellington Street on service vehicles for Parliament Hill, public transportation, active transportation," Nussbaum said, adding traffic data still needs to be collected.
"I think it's fair to say we have a very open mind and are positively inclined towards a rethink of how that space can work."