The city will hold an open house on Monday afternoon for the “final” recommended plan for the downtown Ottawa transit tunnel and LRT line from Tunney’s to Blair. It has a number of modifications and changes from previous editions of the plan.
As somewhat expected but never expressed in previous versions of the plan, it has proven too difficult to keep the Booth/transitway intersection open during the construction period. Recall that the new station will be directly under Booth Street. The new Booth will be elevated onto an overpass that crosses the LRT line and the aquaduct. It is simply not possible to build the station and the overpass at the same spot at the same time and keep the road open to traffic.
Therefore the plan now recommends that the Preston Extension be constructed first. This would have to be constructed in the very first year of the LRT project, similtaneous with the starting of the tunnel construction.
Preston Street currently ends at Albert, with some old pavement (closed to cars, open to cyclists and pedestrians) extending north to the transitway where there is a legal crosswalk to the bike path and riverfront parklands to the north. About a hundred meters further north and slightly east is the intersection of Vimy Drive (main vehicle access to the War Museum) and Wellington / Ottawa River Commuter Expressway. It was in the long-term build out plans (2030) for LeBreton Flats to build the Preston extension, but now this link will be accelerated to the early phases of the LRT project.
There is good news and bad news for local residents and cyclists. The good news is that the link will be made permanent, soon, giving residents and cyclists continued and permanent access to the Flats and riverfront paths and parkland. It will give improved access to Bluesfest and allow attendees easy access to the businesses along Preston Street and Chinatown.
The bad news is all the single occupancy car traffic that will hit the Albert / Preston intersection. Will the intersection need to be widened? It is likely, given the current and proposed width of the Albert / Booth intersection. Widenings are likely to include a left turn lane — or two — from Albert eastbound onto the Preston extension, and a right turn lane –or two — from Albert westbound onto Preston extension. Will these widenings become permanent? I hope not. We cater to cars too much already.
The Preston extension itself as shown in the LeBreton plans was to be two lanes of traffic plus two parking lanes (which could, of course, be converted into traffic lanes in the future). If it is to replace Booth for the three years it takes to build the new Booth overpass, I can guarantee the Preston Extension will be four lanes plus lengthy turning lanes from day one. Will we ever be able to undo that damage?