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Downtown Ottawa will see a 'significant volume' of trucks even if sixth bridge is built, NCC report says

The Alexandra Bridge connects Ottawa and Gatineau over the Ottawa River. The Alexandra Bridge connects Ottawa and Gatineau over the Ottawa River.
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OTTAWA -

As the National Capital Commission launches new public consultations on future interprovincial crossings between Ottawa and Gatineau, a draft report concludes a sixth bridge over the Ottawa River would not drive significant truck traffic out of the downtown core.

The NCC is looking at building a new interprovincial bridge connecting Ottawa and Gatineau as part of the Long-Term Integrated Interprovincial Crossings Plan. Several of the five current crossings are expected to reach capacity by 2031.

According to the draft plan published to the NCC's website this week, a new bridge will not alleviate truck traffic in the downtown core.

"Building a new crossing would divert some heavy truck demand," said the report. "However, there would still be a significant volume of heavy trucks in the core."

The report from IBI Group for the NCC says based on current projections, a new interprovincial crossing in the east end would divert 15 per cent of heavy truck traffic downtown by 2050, while a new crossing in the west end would reduce truck traffic downtown by eight per cent.

"To achieve greater reductions and better manage goods movement, more measures will be required," said the report. "For example, changes in logistics practices or in truck routes."

The study did find that a traffic tunnel would reduce interprovincial heavy truck volumes in the core by approximately 33 per cent by 2050. However, the study notes it would not provide alternative routes for truck travel across the Ottawa River, "further increasing the reliance of goods movement on the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge."

More than 51,000 trips were made every morning rush hour between Ottawa and Gatineau on the five interprovincial bridges before the start of the pandemic. The draft plan notes traffic capacity "is approached or exceeded" on all five crossings in the morning rush hour period.

Morning rush hour congestion is expected to grow by 53 per cent on interprovincial bridges between 2011 and 2050, even with transit improvements and assumed increases in work-from-home levels following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NCC has been looking at possibly building a sixth interprovincial crossing over the Ottawa River for decades, most recently located near Kettle Island in Ottawa's east end.

Mayor Jim Watson reiterated on Wednesday he is opposed to a sixth crossing between Ottawa and Gatineau.

"There's opposition to another bridge, especially in the Kettle Island. There's not a lot of support for another bridge – either here or in the province," said Watson in French.

"I will continue with this opposition."

The report does say more roads and bridges will not be enough to deal with congestion and travel times as the population grows.

"It is important to recognize that accommodating growth in travel demand solely through building more vehicular lanes will only lead to further congestion," said the report. "Transit, walking and cycling would be more attractive if they provide more reliable and time-competitive travel options."

PUBLIC CONSULTATIONS

The NCC launched public consultations this week on the draft plan for its long-term integrated interprovincial crossing plan for the capital region.

The NCC says the plan sets a blueprint for collaboration with partnering agencies to establish a shared long-term vision and strategies for interprovincial transport of people and goods in the region. It will include short-term strategies, medium term strategies for shifting interprovincial travel behaviour and long-term strategies.

For more information, visit ncc-ccn.gc.ca.

The NCC plan acknowledges the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an accelerated shift to remote working, but the long-term impact is still unknown.

The final draft plan will be presented to the NCC's Board of Directors in January.

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