Westward ho ! (part i)

So the NCC and the City came to an understanding for routing the western LRT beyond Dominion Station. It’s time to go beyond the headline coverage. Let’s parse that agreement, and see what’s there and what isn’t.

The basic concept: the LRT will extend west from Dominion along the Ottawa River Parkway (ORP) to Cleary Avenue where it will transition southwards to follow the Richmond Road corridor.

Instead of being pushed up close to the southern edge of the parkway lands, close to some developed parcels, the LRT will now run roughly down the centre of the space, halfway between the houses and the river.

The eastbound and westbound lanes of the ORP will be relocated to be tighter together, directly on top of the LRT in its shallow tunnel, resulting in a wider shoreline space.

This is a pic of the whole thing. Don’t fret the details, we’re going to  look at each section.

ORP overview


Dominion Station at the eastern end

dominion stn end


Dominion Station is shown as a dark blue rectangle on the line, center right on the picture. The western end of the new station just touches the current glorified bus stop zone that is the current station, shown in gray underlay.

The transitway currently curves  a bit northwestwards as it approaches Dominion; the future curve will be smoothed out to a straight stretch through the Blue station and then gently curve west as the track descends into a shallow tunnel at the red line marked C on the map. The underground portion of the LRT line is shown in orange; the above ground portion is a thick red line.

At its current location, the tunnel entrance leaves about 20% of the parkway alignment above ground and not in the tunnel. That tunnel portal location is flexible; it might be as far west as Maplelawn (draw a new red line straight down from the John of Sir John A Macdonald shown on top of the existing parkway alignment).

Note that the collective wisdom of the NCC and City did not include spelling the name of the road nor our founding Prime Minister correctly – it should be a small d in Macdonald.

My guess is that a far western portal at Maplelawn would mean about a quarter of the LRT parkway alignment would be above ground.

Is Dominion Station at the best possible location, or is it at the cheapest?  (No prize for the correct answer). The future station is on city land, in an open cut. I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t much more than a bunch of bus shelters in the future, although a few of the NCC-City drawings do show a building there.

Recall that Minto is building a large condo tower nearby; and eventually the cable tv building and its parking lot will turn into at least two towers. Collectively, the cluster of new and existing towers around Dominion should generate a respectable walk in traffic.

In the very top right corner of the picture, shown in gray, is the existing parking lot and pathway down to Westboro Beach. Recall that there is a double pedestrian underpass here.

A new additional underpass is proposed for Line D, extending from Workman Avenue to the waterfront. Presumably it will be connected to the Station, which will increase public access to the waterfront for those unrich enough to not live on the shoreline. And I hope it will connect somehow to Dominion Avenue and the condo collection nearby so they get better access to the shoreline.

I cannot help but notice that the roads, sewers, LRT and other key infrastructure is nailed down in considerable detail in this agreement. In contrast, the new pedestrian access is minimally fleshed out. Pedestrian and cyclist access is of course fairly flexible, and the NCC has yet to plan how to redo its shoreline as a grand new waterfront park, but nonetheless it would have been nice to see something in writing about access from Dominion Avenue and developments on its west,  to the new underpass, or access through or over the new Dominion Station without going through the fare-paid zone.

The underpass is quite close to the existing one at the Beach, but the two new underpasses promised for the new WLRT route are actually pushed off each end of the underground LRT section. There is no new crossing of the LRT for the kilometer or so where the tunnel is located.

And the western underpass, near Cleary, is physically a new connection but it merely replaces the existing underpass, so it doesn’t really improve waterfront access beyond what we have today. That didn’t stop the City and NCC from trumpeting that they have two “new” underpasses to improve access to the waterfront. It’s what PR people do.  [ thanks to readers for correcting me, I confused the cleary access point with New Orchard; the Cleary underpass is a new, additional underpass for access to the shoreline]

Provided the tunnel east entrance remains at the red line C, residents of the new condo towers will be able to walk to the shoreline by going eastward to Workman Avenue or westward of the red line, over the mound concealing the buried tunnel, and crossing over the eastbound and then the westbound lanes of the parkway, which are still somewhat separated apart at this point. Dangerous for people who walk, yes, but considered acceptable in our car-oriented culture. 

open cut cross section

As is shown in the cross section drawing above, right at the red line, the open cut east of the red line, where the LRT tracks descend into the tunnel,  will be uncrossable by pedestrians, with a chain link fence on each side of the tracks.

The two faint gray cars hitching a ride on top of the trains indicates where the eastbound parkway lanes are now. It also illustrates the concept that the top of the tunnel will always be below the road level and the revised roadways will not be higher — or lower — than they are now.

The entire shallow dip between the existing east and west lanes (shown with gray cars on the drawing above)  will be filled in, so all that vegetation will be removed. With much to do in the agreement about saving the trees along the south edge of the parkway space, a lot of trees will be sacrificed to appease people who drive cars to work along the Ottawa Commuter Expressway as that road is realigned and slopes regraded.

The bright green zone, shown on the first drawing (repeated below:) parallel to the red line C, is not a pedestrian link, but an underground sewer right of way.

dominion stn end

The current west bound lanes are shown in gray, and the new alignment in red outline. The east bound lanes come in from the left and start in the same place as the line showing the LRT, but around Rochester Field they shift north a bit and follow the red outline.

On the left edge of the picture (above) is Rochester Field. It runs from Richmond Road to the parkway; to the west are houses and to the east is the Keg Manor and Maplelawn.

The agreement keeps the western 1/3 of the space as a green corridor from Richmond Road to the parkway (but without a safe crossing of the river side freeway). The remaining 2/3 becomes developable land for the NCC to sell, per the official plan,  presumably for more high rises, whose development charges will be used to pay a portion of the City’s LRT capital costs. Recall that the city is paying its portion of the capital cost to RTG over 20 years, so that is the ideal timeline the city has to get those sites developed.  The 2/3 to be developed won’t have to deed 5% of their area for parkland, as the 1/3 on the western edge will count for that.

The City has to pay the NCC for the right of way over its land (more on this later). In earlier budgets for the WLRT the value of the NCC parkway land was pegged as being the same as the value of land on the city side of the boundary that was zoned for high rises. I wonder if the NCC’s selling price for Rochester Field will match what the city is to pay based on an estimated high rise land value. It seems to me there is room here for a land swap that could cancel out a cash payment …

Next: the middle section of the WLRT alignment


5 thoughts on “Westward ho ! (part i)

  1. Eric,

    There is no underpass anywhere near Cleary at the moment, so I’m rather confused by your claim that the one to be built there will be replacing an existing underpass.

    Interestingly enough, the people who complained longest and hardest about the WLRT, those living in the neighbourhood south of Skead and in the townhouses to the west (i.e. those for whom it would pass their backyards), do not really have their access to the river improved one bit, and they’ll now have a narrower refuge median on a straighter road to venture across.

    One thing you’ve missed in your analysis of the plans (which I grant you may have intended to cover in a subsequent post) is that there is no apparent replacement for the south side pathway – the one that’s a cracked-up mess right now. Part of it disappears in the east tunnel portal area. Other parts of it will surely be torn apart by construction activity.

    1. David, agreed. The South side pathway was the first thing I looked for as well. It will be important to the success of a new park at Rochester Field and the accessibility of the river and Dominion Station that the path is enhanced and connected from Richmond North and Eastward up the North side of the new trenched area – between the trench and the realigned Parkway. Westward to Cleary and the new underpass will be useful as well.

  2. Overall I’m quite pleased at the results of this collaboration – at long last – between the City’s planners and the National Capital Commission. It’s just a shame that a lot of interesting options could have been on the table a lot earlier had the “100 Days of Peace” begun three or four years ago.

    For instance, what if this approach were tried along the entire Parkway as the City originally preferred – allowing the NCC to redesign the entire Western part of the JAM away from the shore?

    Or how about that bit hidden in last week’s announcement (the NCC mentioned it but the City avoided it): an actual *costing* of the NCC’s Rochester Field option?!? And guess what? After all of the City’s gloom and doom pronouncements last Fall, it turns out it wouldn’t have doubled the cost, just added 5-10%. Not insignificant, but it shows the NCC’s idea was never out of the financial ballpark after all. But now it’s too late to get a good look at that alternative… ah well.

    Back to the current proposal. One thing I’d like to see – and soon – are the NCC’s ideas around pathways and pedestrians. Specifically, I’d like to see how they plan on keeping the newly-straightened Parkway from becoming even *more* of a pedestrian-killing motor-sports drag strip, particularly since .

    In addition to the two underpasses, I’ll be suggesting stop light-signaled pedestrian crossings with other traffic-slowing design elements in at least two places: 1) At Woodroffe Avenue, and 2) North of the proposed Rochester Field Park – where the Urban Strategies park design sketch has placed an enticing looking gazebo in the newly reclaimed green space on the North side of the JAM along the river.

    Those are two places where the “desire lines” already show dozens of informal footpaths trod by the brave souls willing to sprint across. And there are others – North of Churchill; between Tunney’s Pasture and Remic’s Rapids; near Mud Lake. If the NCC is serious about its “linear park”, let’s design for it and create safe, high-visibility crossings, and slow down traffic on the “Ottawa River Expressway”.

  3. I do not see anyone asking whether we should be spending 100million per km for an LRT system?

  4. I fail to see why we would build a tunnel to run an LRT along a lightly-populated corridor that was only of any interest as a surface route, rather than, oh, I don’t know, build a tunnel in a place where you could actually access more riders, more effectively influence urban redevelopment and plug some gaps in the rapid transit network, like, ummmm… Richmond Road? This is – in my mind, at least – an absolutely horrible compromise, as it seems to take the worst elements of both planning regimes, and meld them together into something that will at its best, be remembered as mildly regrettable.

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