The Airport Parkway Should Not Be Widened

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Last week, I attended by videolink a draft budget 2023 open house that was organised by councillors Devine, Johnson and Kavanagh. After the introduction by a person from the city, in which he gave a 10,000 ft overview of how budgets work and what money goes where, there was time for questions.

Climate change deniers first

The moderator explained clearly that only questions were allowed, not long opinion loaded introductions leading towards a question; there were many people with questions after all. The climate change deniers got a first shot. Breaking all the rules that were just explained, a person started a long introduction. A second climate change denier which scientists the councillor believed in but Sean Devine smartly sailed around the question by mentioning that climate change or not, he wants to have lots more trees for shade etc. I mean, who remembers scientists names and how can you be against more trees?

DC monies

Things got interesting for me when there was a question about traffic. City staff answered a question (I forgot what the question was) by saying that developers charges (DC money in budget speak) can only be used for certain purposes. In other words, you can’t use DC money to plant trees if the monies are allocated to roads. As an example he mentioned that the monies that might go into the Airport Parkway widening have to be used for an arterial road (based on the fact that more housing means more traffic – I assume that is a provincial rule but correct me if I am wrong).

But then he gave an interesting example which I thought was worth considering. But first this…

Airport Parkway

I am following the plans to widen the Airport Parkway for Bike Ottawa as there is a cycling component in the plans too. From Brookfield’s traffic circle, there would be a new multi use pathway included along the west side of the parkway while the existing Sawmill Creek pathways remains. A win for cycling obviously.

A conceptual drawing of the widened airport parkway. There are 4 lanes, a concrete median, bike paths on both sides ad as a ditch. On the right is a low sound barrier.
The suggested widening of the Airport Parkway

But in the meetings we have had, it became abundantly clear that many people wonder why we are going to spend 100 million dollars on widening a road that runs along an LRT. We have seen that before, when the Queensway (next to the LRT) was widened by Bob Chiarelli. Just ask Jeff Leiper about it. If you want to make sure your transit department keeps losing money year after year, building wider roads next to your transit routes is for sure the best solution.

Airport Parkway race track

I don’t have to explain to my readers the concept of induced demand (NACTO) anymore, but the widening of the Airport is such a terrible idea for that exact reason. During the quiet hours it creates a great opportunity for a race track (cue: Lime Bank); during the busy rush hours (15 hours a week) it will attract more traffic that runs straight into the funnel of Bronson.

And when Bronson backs up, people find alternative routes through Old Ottawa South and the Glebe. Good luck with that. What mayor wants to have their name written all over such a debacle?

Jersey Barriers

The Airport Parkway has some greenspace along it. It is also narrow at places. Therefore the designers came up with a concrete Jersey barrier type wall in the centre. I can just see confused wildlife trying to cross, see their routes blocked, not knowing where to go, linger on the road and smash! Road kill galore.

New exit at Walkley and Airport Parkway

Another side effect is likely that Walkley will become much busier as there will be a new exit SB at Walkley. At the top where the exit meets Walkley, a new roundabout will be constructed.

A roundabout is planned at Walkley Road. Several roads come together, a pedestrian and cycling path wraps around it
The ‘walk your bike’ roundabout that would be built at Walkley and the Airport Parkway exit: sight lines are not all great at the left half

Greenbank Rd.

But back to that Draft Budget Open house. The city staffer mentioned that evening that the monies could also be spent on another arterial road, “such as Greenbank“.

I think every road widening is one too many. But that money will be spent, no matter what. I know from councillor Hill’s election promise that he really wants to improve Greenbank. And I think it is not such a bad idea to move the budget from the Airport Parkway to Greenbank to build dedicated bus lanes.

Bus lanes with e-buses

As LRT is going to run south already to the airport and Riverside South and a north south Stage 3 line will eventually (in the mid 2030’s I guess) run along Woodroffe to Barrhaven, a third transit corridor along Greenbank feeding into the Pinecrest LRT station might be a good idea.

Widening Greenbank at the Experimental Farm with a separate bus lane would probably help with congestion. If the traffic signal cycles can be controlled by approaching (electric) buses, this might greatly improve connectivity to LRT (and IKEA). Include a wildlife nature bridge and proper fencing along the farm.

a bridge for animals leads across a highway. the bridge is covered with smalll trees and grasses

Add better cycling infrastructure too

Rather then spending money on the Airport Parkway that will cannibalise Line 2, the money could be much better spent on improving the connection along Greenbank. O, and since bike infrastructure doesn’t cost much extra when rebuilding a road, the city might as well improve the bidirection MUP on the west side. A wider MUP is also much easier to clear in winter, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Any reasons why we can’t do it?

Update February 23, 2023: Transportation Committee approved a motion (8 yes, 4 no) to delay the widening of the parkway until at least two yars after LRT is running. The construction of an exit, a multi use pathway and a roundabout as well as several other modifications (traffic calming) will go ahead. See below.

Rather go cycling in Ottawa? Here are some suggested routes.

1 Comment

  1. 1. Hans you fell into a trap calling LRT money losing. Transit has farebox recovery of a certain %, roads have an infetestimal low % recovery from the city share of gas tax. New roads/lanes should be electronically tolled.
    2. So the city is adding hundreds of thousands in “developer” charges onto home buyers and renters…and then blames developers for high house prices?
    3.normally yhe city justifies wide curb lanes as being for buses and trucks, but the Airport traffic sewer has the widest lanes in the centre, ie the speediest lanes…
    4.that lane config plus high overhead lighting and super wide paved shoulders and huge clear cut sides reveals this is looks like a freeway, and encourages high speed use. Like where it passes Carleton U.
    5. It’s like putting in somewhat useful MUPs gives the city license to carry on merrily in its all-about-cars mindset.

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