Assuming that the LRT project about to announced on Wednesday at City Hall won’t be saying “the bids were too high, and as your fiscally prudent mayor, I am therefore cancelling it” …I think we can assume it will be going ahead.
To construct it, the City is applying to close part of Old Wellington Street. Finding Wellington is rather like searching for a moving target when it crosses the Flats. Recall that the current Wellington runs down from Parliament, past the Archives building, intersects with Portage Bridge, and swings through the Flats to cross Booth and Vimy and then terminates a few meters west of the aqueduct when it gets renamed the Sir JAMacdonald
Commuter Expressway Parkway.
One of the few old segments left still bearing the Wellington name runs from Commissioner Street to a different intersection with Booth Street. I dunno if the one way westbound ramp from Wellington down the slope to Old Wellington along the west side of the Garden of the Provinces & Territories is actually named Wellington. I sure know there are no street signs at the Booth intersection of Old Wellington, to avoid confusing Gatineau-bound motorists who probably couldn’t cope with a Wellington deja vu.
The City’s notice of planned closure was quick and scanty, so I wrote off to the City asking a few questions. Here are the questions and answers:
1. Is this a permanent road closure, or for the duration of the construction?
Answer: The closure will be permanent as this section of (old) Wellington Street will be required to accommodate the LRT’s tracks and guideway.
2. If permanent, how does this tie into the city’s approved Escarpment Plan which relies on this street for local access to developments on city-owned lands (currently the surface parking lots along Albert)?
Answer: Our understanding is that the Escarpment Area District Plan will be updated to accommodate the LRT’s alignment. Although it was known that the LRT would run through the area when the Plan was developed, the actual alignment had not been finalized at that point. It is anticipated that local access roads will be created as part of the relevant development plans for the area, as and when they are submitted.
3. if permanent, are there financial consquences for reinstating the road later, during development of the adjacent lands?It is false economy to close and not replace the street during LRT construction, to the benefit of the LRT budget, but to the detriment of the later land development budget which must restate the street
Answer: As noted above, it is anticipated that access roads would be part of any comprehensive redevelopment proposals for the area. Design would be concurrent with any development application. As such, the cost would be borne by the developer.
4. the street is now used for parking tour buses whilst passengers are circulating in the downtown, or in hotels. What provision is being made for them, and is there community consultation planned beforehand?
Answer: The decision to place the LRT’s alignment in this location was made in 2011, as part of the decision to utilize Queen Street for the LRT’s alignment. A report on this matter was put before Council whereby public deputations were permitted. Vehicles may park on City roads in accordance with local parking by-laws, as and where space is available. There are no plans to directly accommodate any displaced tour busses that may park on this section of Wellington Street on any City-owned property or road.
5. will the use of the Old Wellington road for LRT stageing also include closing the parking lots, which will also preclude using them for bus parking?
Answer: As noted, the section of Wellington Street is required for the LRT’s alignment. The City-owned parking lots to the south are required for construction staging relating to the digging of the LRT’s tunnel which is to run under downtown.
6. will this include closing Commissioner street? Note that LRT construction parallels the river parklands, and ALL of the pedestrian and cyclist crossings are being impacted – Bayview, Preston Extension, Booth, Commissioner. Simply instructing cyclists to use constricted road detours through the construction sites will be insufficient. Some thought needs to be given to measures to permit continued easy access to the river front, and access to the downtown for commuter cyclists.
Answer: Commissioner Street will not be closed as part of this process, or by the operation of the LRT. The tunnel will run underneath Commissioner Street, so that the north-south access can be maintained. There are extensive provisions being made to ensure that pedestrian and cycling connectivity and access are maintained through the LRT’s construction period.
7. Old Wellington is used by dog walkers, pedestrians, commuters — closing off Old Wellington and adjacent areas will displace these people and functions to other spaces. Some thought needs to be given to the larger picture.
Answer: The LRT’s constructor is required to maintain and leave open all routes currently used by pedestrians and cyclists that could be affected by the LRT’s construction. Where temporary route or crossing closures are required, an safe alternative route will have to be provided and appropriate signage put in place. Notwithstanding this, some disruption is inevitable as part of the LRT’s construction. In the longer term, planning for the LeBreton Flats area will continue to be guided by the City’s Official Plan and the Escarpment Area District Plan.
And thus ends the guts of the letter.
Several notes: we still have to find a new place for the tour busses. The City is the likely developer of the city-owned parking lots, for affordable housing, and the restatement of the roads is thus a cost transfer from the OLRT project to the affordable housing provider. And lastly, I like the sentence The LRT’s constructor is required to maintain and leave open all routes currently used by pedestrians and cyclists that could be affected by the LRT’s construction. Fortunately, the Preston street extension is open today , so …