O-Train Cycle Path makes progress

A version of this post appeared earlier this week at www.SpacingOttawa.ca.


The City has an amazing bureaucratic machine. It spends most of its time and resources promising, planning, and budgeting. All of that mental heavy lifting seems to leave it quite exhausted, but, sometimes, just sometimes, it surprises by making something actually appear “on the ground”.

There is a multipurpose path (MUP) (aka a bike path) proposed to run along side the O-Train corridor. Parts of it, south of Young Street, have existed since 1963.

This year, Council decided to fund an underpass under Somerset, which is the last big remaining impediment to the project. Thank you thank you City Council for your wisdom, etc.etc.

Now there are signs of progress on the ground. These painted lines on the Somerset sidewalk show the centre line of the underpass. Imagine, someone is actually out on site!

The City has to remove the pavement on the road, dig the hole/trench, drop in the precast box underpass, and fill it in. It is almost, but not quite, under the remarkable geological feature found only in Ottawa: the hanging puddle.

Now a hanging lake is a lake high up on the side of a mountain, where your mind suggests the water should just run down the hill. We don’t qualify for a hanging lake (usually caused by retreating glaciers) but we do have a hanging puddle, courtesy of a previous contractor:

This unique geo-puddle has a cycling lane right through it, most conveniently allowing cyclists to wash the dust off their tires. Motorists frequently drive it through it too, offering a free wash down to pedestrians. No word yet on whether the reconstruction efforts on both sides of this puddle, and on the lane opposite it … will impair its unique existence.

a pic from last spring showing the famous hanging puddle on a dry day

There is more positive news on this missing cycling link along the O-Train corridor.

Further south, at Gladstone, there is a guerilla path that allowed intrepid cyclists and pedestrians to get from Gladstone through the scrub bushes to the Queensway underpass and then onto the existing MUP. I am not sure I would use it late at night, but it was certainly cyclable during the day, when you could avoid the crusty abandoned condoms that might puncture your tires, and the jettisoned spray paint cans containing God-only-knows what awful colours, at the freeway underpass.

I heard that the City was going to “clean up” this path, and I wondered if that meant pick up the garbage, chop down all the trees, or what? It turns out the City did a great job of cleaning up the multi-jurisdictioned “pathway” (part is City owned, part is NCC land, part is Provincial MOT land):

the new look is much more inviting

 Despite approving the construction of the Somerset underpass for the MUP, Council has not allocated any money (yet) for the paths that connect to it. From Somerset the path needs to run North to the Bayview O-Train  & LRT stations, and then to the Ottawa River pathways. To the south, the path needs to follow an abandoned rail siding up to Gladstone. After crossing Gladstone, it continues along the existing informal path until it joins the existing stonedust MUP that runs from Young Street to Carling Avenue.

While the City’s eventual version of the path will be paved, and lit, and have seating clusters, I do find myself wondering if a bit of guerilla bushwhacking couldn’t open up an interim pathway using the old gravel railbed between Somerset and Gladstone. The only significant impediment is a derelict chain link fence at the Gladstone end.

In the opposite direction, behind City Centre, the surface is mostly level-packed dirt and gravel anyway. A new path could appear courtesy of a few days of mountain bike trail blazing.

Any chance we can keep the new underpass open once its built? The City currently plans to board it up until the new path can be designed, engineered, budgeted, prioritized, etc etc which may be in my lifetime provided I keep taking all my vitamins. If our Councillor could persuade the staff to save money by not boarding it up, the path would appear like magic within a few weeks.

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