There is an enormous bridge structure just west of Preston, where the Queensway spans the OTrain cut. It is enormous because it spans not only the cut, but allows for a 2 – 4 lane freeway on each side of the cut, the defunct Champagne Freeway, that would have connected the airport parkway at Confederation Heights to the Fairy Lake Parkway in Gatineau. (*diagram below)
A few years back the space on the east side was improved to make the OTrain multi user path. We had to dragoon the city into building it, and much to their surprise (but not ours) it has proven wildly popular. The City may yet finger someone to be responsible for maintaining it.
A similar-but-different path is proposed for the west side of the OTrain (shown in pic above). The apartments along Champagne Avenue are already building short segments of it, incorporated into their site plans. The Preston-Carling CDP (south of the Qway) and the Gladstone CDP (north of the Qway) both call for the implementation of the west side OTrain pathway.
The MTO engineers have been assigned to replace the bridge, mostly with a dirt embankment, such as holds up most of the Queensway in its elevated route slicing across centretown. Replacement is desirable due to seismic issues (it is on a fault line) and the shear expense of maintaining a bridge under a salt-laden road where an embankment would be cheaper.
They looked at a bunch of options, but let’s jump right to the winner:
Most of the underpass area is filled in. A retaining wall made of pre-cast slabs would form the sides. This would look like the transitway crossing Bayview Avenue, although I would hope we could use one of more decorative precast patterns available today.
The OTrain double tracks would be at the bottom of the cut, marked Existing track and Future track in the drawing. The multi-user path is shown in its current location, separated from the cut by a chain link fence. The height of the underpass would be the same as today, ie very high and pleasant enough to ride through as there is pretty good daylight. Smaller tunnels, like at Somerset, would be much darker (and much longer than at Somerset). Here’s a marketing picture the MTO created for the concept:
The new bridge would be made on site, either just north or just south of the Queensway (there is city owned vacant lot northwest of the site; and MTO is expropriating the little warehouse strip at the corner of Railway St and Young St too). The pre-made bridge would then be inserted into place over one or two weekend freeway closures. This is the same rapid replacement scheme used elsewhere along the Qway in the past few years and proposed for a number of overpasses in the downtown area.
I am perfectly happy with this replacement scheme for the east side pathway.
Except for one thing.
What happened to the west side path?
Did MTO not know of the west side pathway?
Well, they did know. They knew it was in the Preston-Carling CDP. They know it is in the draft versions of the Gladstone CDP. They know local residents want it, as a result of comments gathered at the first open house. They know local cycling groups want it. And they acknowledge that making the bridge longer, to include room for pathway on the west side, would be of minimal additional cost that would not throw their budgets out of whack.
So why isn’t the west side path there?
Because the city didn’t ask for it, and indeed I hear one planner actually told the MTO it wasn’t necessary, because west side path users could cross over the OTrain cut at the Young Street bridge, and then recross it at Gladstone.
Such circuitous routing is, of course, the hallmark of planners who never use the infrastructure they are supposedly planning. And who must surely be oblivious to the desirability of having direct connections from residences to the pathways to the OTrain stations, etc etc etc.
Hopefully, MTO will be listening to citizens who repeat their need for the west side pathway (quick, send an email right now to firstname.lastname@example.org and or Don.email@example.com to tell them you want a west side underpass. CC your councillor too: Catherine.McKenney@ottawa.ca and / or Jeff.Leiper@Ottawa.ca.
Don’t bother cc’ing our planners. I think that would be useless.
Here are some of the other options MTO looked at for the Queensway overpass over the OTrain and pathways.
above: a separate box tunnel for the pathway, shown to the right of the OTrain tunnel. The proposed tunnel was significantly larger than the Somerset tunnel, ie about 21′ wide by 11′ high. Still, the long tunnel would be dark and somewhat claustrophobic. The success of people-oriented infrastructure is partly determined by potential users feeling safe.
A variation is shown below, with the pathway tunnel sharing a support wall with the train tunnel. If windows were cut between the two, the pathway would be brighter and wider feeling, but still a tunnel.
There were several other variations in alignment. The MTO preferred option is fine with me, provided they include a west side path.
The overpass is tentatively scheduled for replacement in 2018. OTrain service disruptions due to MTO would be minimal, as the new spans would be built nearby and inserted over two weekends. Similarly, the existing pathway would remain in place. On selected weekends, traffic would be detoured to Preston Street to go around the site.
Trivia: during the planning of the OTrain multi-use pathway, it was obvious to community members that a west side pathway was also desirable and feasible. We lobbied for inclusion of the pathway in the Champagne condo towers plans. We lobbied to have them in the Preston-Carling CDP. Then-Councillor Hobbs was supportive and promoted the pathway scheme diligently, to her credit. Planning Committee got it. The least enthused folks were always our city planners.
Early in the east-side pathway design, I suggested that the City quickly pour a stonedust path on the west side since the city owned the still-vacant lot northwest of the Queensway, and pour the stonedust path under the Qway too, right up to the little warehouses on Young Street, and around them too if the lot lines allowed that. Then, with the path “installed”, we would have stronger arguments for a underpass when the Qway work — already being planned — was done. Alas, the planners invoked “proceedure” as to why that simply could not be done.
Did you email those MTO folks yet? Their emails are above !
* Here’s the 1950’s Greber plan showing the Champagne freeway in bright red, coming in at the 5 o’clock position, crossing the Rideau River and then cutting through Carleton U, skimming the west edge of Dows Lake, and going down the OTrain / CPR corridor, eventually to take the Prince of Wales bridge to Hull:
For about 25 years my house was under city order not to be improved (necessary repairs only!), as that would increase their expropriation cost should the freeway go ahead. When my neighbours garage fell down one winter, they had to sign a legal release from the city that they would not try to recover the value of a new garage during expropriation. Today things are much politer. We just rezone whacks of the area for high rises and let the developers do the dirty work.