Qway overpass replacement(s)

Preston st overpass

The current Queensway bridge through downtown and the west side were built in the early 1960’s. Shown in this pic is the pre-60’s  Preston at the Queensway. Or as it was then, going under the Renfrew subdivision bridge in the foreground; and the Chaudiere subdivision bridge in the background, both belonging to CNR (original photo credit: Paul McGee). St Anthony Soccer Club Hall (a private meeting venue) is now on the right; to the left is currently a city parking lot.

The Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO) wants to rebuild or replace the overpasses between Metcalfe in the east and Parkdale in the west. With the exception of the OTrain overpass, the plan is most remarkable for the lack of change. Each new overpass spans the same distance as before, ie the roads underneath are not being changed or modified.

This struck me as really odd, for surely there is demand for the underpasses at Metcalfe and O’Connor to be widened, to permit the addition of infrastructure for people who walk and cycle. For example, there is the proposed O’Connor cycleway which is struggling to find a route where most space is already fully taken up for people who drive motor vehicles. Surely the City has asked for a wider underpasses to permit the addition of new infrastructure?

Apparently not.

Nor has it tried to surmount the barrier the Queensway makes as it cuts through the downtown neighbourhoods, severing Centretown from the Glebe. Wider sidewalks? More landscaping along sidewalks, maybe a treed buffer and safety zone from the frantic road traffic?


Any and all improvements for people who walk or people who bike will have to be won from the people who drive motor vehicles. The “war and cars” must not be avoided.

Technically, if the City requests a major change, it has to pay for it. But MTO officials at the open house were at pains to point out that when replacing a bridge, adding a few more feet wasn’t a big part of the total cost at all, and probably wouldn’t be billed back to the city. Ditto for re-arranging the pavements underneath the bridges, and approaches thereto. Want wider sidewalks as opposed to wider lanes? No problem, ask and they are yours.

But no one from the city is asking. As we’ll see tomorrow, some city staff have rejected better infrastructure for people who walk or bike.

After Metcalfe, Bronson strikes me as a particularly bad underpass situation. It is simply horrible to use the sidewalks due to the number of turn lanes, the vehicles swooping down on people in the crosswalks, the dirt, the noise …

MTO plans to expropriate the former bread factory / mini warehouse complex on the SE corner of Catherine/Bronson. This gives more room for reconfiguring that intersection and underpass.

But alas, there appears no interest in doing so.

As it is now, the Arlington-Catherine-Bronson  roadway is awful for all users, regardless of mode. And on the south side of the Queensway, the repositioned Bronson off-ramp won’t be making life easier for people who walk or bike. And I actually don’t think it’s an improvement for motorists, either, except for those exiting the Queensway onto Bronson / Isabella.

It seems a shame someone isn’t looking at repairing this intersection now that a new bridge is being built. At the very least, there should be a walkway + cycle track on each side of Bronson separated from the lanes under the bridge by a glass noise and dirt barrier.

Other cities can do that, why can’t we?

Are we really the city planning forgot?

Similarly, we should be looking at making these roads and underpasses  into complete streets with facilities for all: Percy, Booth, Rochester, Bayswater, Fairmont, Holland, and Parkdale.

What’s that sound we hear from the City with respect to the once a century opportunity to rethink these important streets and downtown infrastructure?

It’s … snoring.

I guess this opportunity isn’t on the City’s Official Plan so it must be ignored at all costs.

Maybe our reinvigorated Transportation Committee can request some eyeball time on the opportunities?

Over on Bayswater, there are even more opportunities. Bayswater dips under the Queensway.  Apparently traffic engineers in the 60’s figured pedestrians of the future might be 15′ tall, because they dipped the sidewalk that far down under the bridge. When Bayswater is repaired under the new/rebuilt bridge, why not make the sidewalks 2′ or so higher than the road surface, so peds don’t have to walk downhill so far, and then uphill? And to give them a height advantage over adjacent cars? There is plenty of room for a slope or retaining wall tween the sidewalk and the road as Bayswater is supernaturally wide only where it goes under the Qway.

In fact, why not examine NOT leaving the Bayswater overpass there at all?  Take it out! Install a 18′ wide by 12′ high ped-cyclist underpass instead. That would leave the neighbourhood connected, with easy access to schools and churches and neighbours. People who drive could easily use the Fairmont underpass.

And it would frustrate the hell out of car commuters who charge through the middle of residential neighbourhoods.  And their cheerleaders at city hall.

Face it, we made mistakes in the 50’s and 60’s. A big one was sacrificing all the established inner neighbourhoods to the interests of the suburban ring neighbourhoods where the only way to get around is to drive. If they gotta drive out there, then they gotta drive through here.

Increasingly, those through-drivers don’t even live or vote in Ottawa.

That F-U attitude to established walkable neighbourhoods doesn’t cut it anymore in civilized places.









2 thoughts on “Qway overpass replacement(s)

  1. What really annoys me about stuff like this is how both parties (be it City and MTO or City and NCC) will engage in “passing-the-buck” behaviour and blame the other.

    Frankly I think the Queensway, Hwy 416 and Hwy 7 should be handed over to the City from the MTO, along with all provincial gas tax revenues collected within the City of Ottawa. That way these projects would be entirely under City control and the buck passing would stop. We may or may not get better infrastructure as a result, but at least we’d know unequivocally who to hold responsible.

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