Downtown Ottawa will see a “significant amount” of trucks even if the sixth bridge is built, NCC report says

As the National Capital Commission launches new public hearings on future interprovincial crossings between Ottawa and Gatineau, a draft report concludes that a sixth bridge over the Ottawa River would not drive significant truck traffic out of the city center.

NCC is looking at building a new interprovincial bridge connecting Ottawa and Gatineau as part of the long-term integrated interprovincial crossing plan. Several of the five current crossings are expected to reach capacity in 2031.

According to the draft plan published on NCC’s website this week, a new bridge will not ease truck traffic in the city center.

“Building a new intersection would divert the demand of some heavy trucks,” the report said. “However, there would still be a significant amount of heavy trucks in the core.”

The report from IBI Group for NCC says based on current projections that a new interprovincial intersection at the eastern end will divert 15 percent of heavy truck traffic in the city center by 2050, while a new intersection at the western end will reduce truck traffic in the city center by eight percent.

“To achieve greater reductions and better control the movement of goods, more measures will be needed,” the report said. “For example, changes in logistics practices or in truck routes.”

The study found that a traffic tunnel would reduce the amount of heavy trucks between the provinces in the core by approx. 33 percent by 2050. However, the study notes that it would not provide alternative routes for trucking across the Ottawa River, “further increasing dependence on freight traffic on the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge.”

More than 51,000 trips were made each morning rush hour between Ottawa and Gatineau on the five interprovincial bridges before the start of the pandemic. The draft plan notes that traffic capacity is “approached or exceeded” at all five intersections during the morning rush hour.

Morning rush hour congestion is expected to grow by 53 percent on interprovincial bridges between 2011 and 2050, even with transit improvements and presumed increases in the number of work from home following the COVID-19 pandemic.

NCC has been looking for a sixth crossing for decades, most recently located near Kettle Island at the eastern end of Ottawa.

Mayor Jim Watson reiterated Wednesday that he is opposed to a sixth transition between Ottawa and Gatineau.

“There is opposition to another bridge, especially on Kettle Island. There is not much support for another bridge – neither here nor in the province,” Watson said in French.

“I will continue with this opposition.”

The report says more roads and bridges will not be enough to handle congestion and travel times as the population grows.

“It is important to recognize that meeting the growth in travel demand solely by building more lanes will only lead to further congestion,” the report said. “Transit, walking and cycling would be more attractive if they provide more reliable and time-competitive travel options.”

PUBLIC CONSULTATIONS

NCC launched public hearings this week on the draft plan for its long-term integrated interprovincial crossing plan for the metropolitan area.

NCC says the plan sets out a plan for collaboration with partnering agencies to establish a common long-term vision and strategies for interprovincial transportation of people and goods in the region. It will include short-term strategies, medium-term strategies to change interprovincial travel behavior and long-term strategies.

For more information, visit ncc-ccn.gc.ca.

The NCC plan recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an accelerated shift to teleworking, but its long-term impact is still unknown.

The final draft plan will be presented to NCC’s board in January.

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