Great Roadway Removal Contest

It seems to me that other cities are galloping ahead of Ottawa, converting freeways and elevated structures to other, more urban-friendly purposes. New York converted an elevated rail line to the High Line linear Park. Seoul, Korea tore down a huge urban freeway in just six months and created a long linear park along the (previously sewerized) river below once it was daylighted. San Francisco also removed freeways and no one noticed any transportation disaster unfolding.

Now Vancouver is examining removing some elevated road bits:

This leads me to wonder what roads in Ottawa might be candidates for removal. Not downsizing, not diets, but outright removal, and replacement with something else.

I can think of three right away for conversion: return the Alexandra bridge to a surface LRT line connecting downtown Ottawa (and the new Rideau LRT Station) to Gatineau.

Second, Colonel By Drive is a former rail line — it’s time to put it back. As a surface LRT line it would offer an intersection free route all the way to Carleton U. Ped bridges or tunnels would cross the Canal for easy access to the Glebe, Lansdowne Park, and adjacent lands, all without tearing up Bank Street. (Observant readers will realize that the Colonel By and Alexandra lines meet at Rideau Street and could well be continuous…).

And thirdly, the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway. As our LRT planners have documented, the two east-bound car lanes between Dominion and Lincoln Fields could easily be removed without seriously inconveniencing car traffic that would move over to a two-way road now occupied by the west-bound space (with all the buses on the ORP now, it functions as two lanes of busway and two lanes of car traffic).

But can we do more? Can we identify roads that could be totally removed and converted to non-car non-transit use, much the same way as we removed the streetcar lines and the rail lines in the 1960’s? What roads do you see as surplus blights on the urban fabric?

Let’s rule out roads not yet built, such as the Alta Vista “parkway”. Or the road planned but not finished that will run through Great Turtle & Mosquito Swamp in Kanata. And downsizing roads is too easy, so that rules out King Edward and returning Booth Street to the residents. I wanna see a list of roads that we could completely, totally do away with. There are bonus points if the removed traffic isn’t just dumped onto the next neighborhood over. Here’s one suggestion from a reader in BC: Could we tear up the Queensway and replace it with a two lane road for trucks, an LRT line for people, and bike and park space for the benefit of the adjacent communities now blighted by the noise and fumes?

Readers, start your engines… err, crank up your minds, and identify the surplus roads.

16 thoughts on “Great Roadway Removal Contest

  1. Nicholas St needs to be gone. It’s just a big wall between Sandy Hill and the canal.

    Having said that, in Ottawa we’ve done fairly well limiting the expansion of expressways. There are really only two expressways in urban Ottawa, and even then, they’re kept mostly out of downtown. When you compare that to the situation that other cities face, with expressways crisscrossing the urban area, cutting off neighborhoods from one another, we’re actually quite lucky. Even Gatineau, right across the river, has the 5 and the 50 slicing through downtown.

    Especially when you think of all the roads that haven’t been ruined. Vanier Parkway and Alta Vista are two that pop immediately to mind that were intended to be freeways, but haven’t happened.

    1. “Nicholas St needs to be gone. It’s just a big wall between Sandy Hill and the canal.” Agree it’s a major blight but until they remove the lowertown truck route it’s not going anywhere. Maybe they should bury it.

  2. Metcalfe. Turn it into a linear park /pedestrian Mall. What about the car traffic? 90% of car traffic on Metcalfe is suburban commuters going from the Queensway to the downtown core.
    Why not have a park and ride lot near one of the central off ramps, and a dedicated shuttle between there and downtown?

    1. I like this idea and I bet the NCC would as well. They have always dreamed of making this a grand link between the Museum of Nature and Parliament Hill.

    2. I’ve been living on Metcalfe for the past year or so, and even in the mornings, when commuters are heading downtown, there is not a ton of traffic on the street. There are no buses that run up Metcalfe either. I think it would be a superb pedestrian / bike route in the heart of the city.

      This would also, I think, encourage growth of shops along streets like Gilmour, which already has some storefronts spreading from Elgin towards Metcalfe.

  3. Why not (for a start) remove the elevated section of the Queensway between Nicholas and Kirkwood, and replace it with a boulevard? A properly designed boulevard would allow quicker moving traffic to keep moving, but also offer the opportunity for LRT, improved biking and pedestrian facilities and removed scads of urban blight.

  4. Agreed (with Julia). Why not keep the roads we have and just find solutions for not building others? It’s like the sierra clubbers in Kanata who wanted the Terry Fox extension stopped even after it was more than half paved and the trees were already chopped down. Spend the money, kill the wildlife, build the roadway, but then never use it. Yeah, that makes sense.
    The Metcalfe idea would involve multiple demolitions, which was why it was scrapped. Look at the outcry when a heritage parking lot is proposed for development – now imagine real, physical heritage buildings being scheduled for demolition.

    1. S-man, I think it’s a highly worthwhile endeavor to reclaim spaces from automobiles. A lot of these facilities were not built for cars in the first place. Many of the suggestions being made are really about improving the public realm, not just restricting car use. So that can involve reclaiming spaces for better uses in the core, and improving our suburs so that they are less reliant on roads.

  5. I love the idea of turning part of the Queensway into a boulevard. This would provide more balance in the use of public space and improve the quality of life in surrounding neighbourhoods.

    The idea of a park and ride from the Queensway was around in the 1950s. There were some interesting editorials in the Citizen at this time.

    Here’s a bit from the Citizen on October 15, 1957, the day construction of the Queensway officially started:

    “The Queensway will serve a dual purpose. It will offer through traffic a high-speed facility. But it will also serve local traffic having a downtown destination. To the extent that the Queensway does this, the highway should be linked to the public transport service so that the new road does not become a contributor to downtown congestion, instead of helping to relieve it.

    Motorists should be encouraged to use the Queensway to bring them to the nearest point to their destination in the downtown area. They should then park, and take a bus or street-car the remaining distance.”

    And in 1958:

    “If the Queensway is not linked to public transport … it is quite possible that the new throughway will add to downtown congestion, rather than relieve it. That has been the experience in other cities where similar highways have been built. These urban superhighways attract more and more motor vehicle traffic, much of which is destined for the congested business district.”

  6. I will say that the Big Dig in Boston, despite its cost, did provide a lovely set of connections from the North End. Bury the Queensway through Centretown?

    1. The Big Dig took a lot of courage and lots of money and having used their subway it was obviously worth it. Can you imagine trying to get the go ahead for that here? The 417 is provincial and I doubt they would ever consider it (unless it was in Toronto). Nice idea though.

    2. I used to live beside the Queensway (Percy/Chamberlain) and would love to see it buried through Centretown. As Chris B says, probably too much red tape to even get it on the table, but… wishful thinking?

      Once buried, I would replace it, ideally with bike and walking paths, grass and trees. This would re-connect Centretown to the Glebe, and would be a much needed east / west bike lane in the middle of the city. Right now the Queensway is like a scar running down the heart of the city.

      Eric Darwin for Mayor? Or maybe Premier, so we can get that provincial clout?

  7. A lane to a lane-and-a-half of Montreal Road was obstructed much of this week, just outside the Sally Ann store, without any obvious sign of impeding the traffic flow offering on that arterial.

  8. OK, these aren’t entire roadways but pieces of street that could be recovered for other uses…

    1. Close York Street between Sussex and Byward, and build underground parking. York Street could be a pedestrian square. The land occupied by the existing multi-level parking garage in the market could be sold to a developer to recoup part of the cost.

    2. Elgin St. between Wellington and Queen – one side could be eliminated, either east or west of the memorial. If the west (southbound) section were closed, the connection to Sparks St. would be strenghtened. Maybe some sidewalk cafes on Elgin facing the square? The current northbound section could be converted to two-way traffic.

    1. I like the Elgin idea. It would be reminiscent of how parts of Broadway have been closed in Manhattan to make pedestrian space. It works brilliantly.

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