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Debate over future of Queen Elizabeth Driveway rages on as active use program winds down


Two weeks prior to the scheduled reopening of the Queen Elizabeth Driveway to cars on weekdays, the ongoing debate surrounding its usage continues.

The future of the street making national headlines, most recently as the subject of an editorial by the Globe and Mail.

Tracy Rain-Parkes, a resident of the Glebe, can't wait for it to reopen.

"You know, it's frustrating. It's really inconvenient," said Rain-Parkes.

The latest idea, to go even further, turning it into a permanent pedestrian park.

“You look at cities all over the world: New York, in Europe, Vancouver, Toronto, they're all activating their waterfront. And we have so many amazing rivers, the Ottawa River, the Rideau River the Canal, and right now most of them just have parkways along it,” said Brandon Lind, an Intern Architect and Urban Designer at Perkins and Will.

Lind is proposing the complete elimination of vehicular traffic, turning the Queen Elizabeth Driveway into a pedestrian pathway.

Envisioned amenities include a new pool, splash pads, lawn bowling, tennis courts, an outdoor gym, and a basketball court, among other offerings along the waterfront.

Lind says, "It's such an amazing space and waterfront that we have in the city and just having it as it is now could be improved."

A depiction of part of the Queen Elizabeth Driveway reimagined as a park. (Brandon Lind)

Rain-Parkes, who has been a Glebe resident for 30 years, says the closed road hasn’t been used as much as expected this summer.

"During COVID we used it a lot because everyone was out there. It was busy. And so it was nice to be able to space out and that made sense. But right now, I mean, you can see there's no one out there."

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe has taken up the cause to revert the Queen Elizabeth Driveway back to accommodating vehicular traffic.

"There are many other places where we can look at creating more green space and creating more pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. That's just not the place to do it,” says Sutcliffe. “So it's not a debate about green space or cycling or pedestrianisation. It's simply a debate about the best use of that stretch of road and it's not to make it a park and it's not to have it closed to vehicles during rush hour.”

City Councillor Ariel Troster believes in the potential of the space.

"We need to think beyond a very small stretch of road as being a road and think of it more with its potential as a park which would be a huge asset to the city."

The Ottawa-Gatineau Hotel Association commissioned Nanos to conduct a survey on how the street is used, telling Newstalk 580 CFRA it was seeking independent research to get an accurate read on how the public feels.

Much like the politicians, residents in the area are divided.

"It's great,” says Ali Aleali. "It’s one's place in Ottawa where pedestrians can actually, you know, use all of the road."

"It does seem a bit pointless," says another resident, "You know, because there doesn’t seem to be too many people using it."

The National Capital Commission owns the Queen Elizabeth Driveway and has previously described it as a "scenic pathway" and not a commuter roadway.

The active use program on 2.4 km of the QED between Fifth Avenue and Somerset Street continues daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. until Sept. 4. From Sept. 9 to Oct. 9, the road will be closed to vehicular traffic only on weekends and Thanksgiving Monday.

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


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