LRT Phase 2 - need for Plan B
There has been much gnashing of teeth and frothing of the mouth regarding the NCC's recent rejection of the City's plan to extend its LRT plan along the Ottawa River Parkway (aka Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway). But the NCC's proposal to use Rochester Field to direct the LRT west to Lincoln Fields should come as a surprise to no-one, least of all Mayor Jim Watson. The original Transitway system, approved back in 1978, always contemplated this route and appeared in many Regional Council and City of Ottawa Official Plans for decades. In fact, then Capital Ward Councillor Jim Watson voted on these plans in the early `90s. The NCC rented out the use of the Parkway to first Regional Council and then the City of Ottawa to permit buses while the balance of the 31-kilometre transitway system was being built, with the expectation that at some point the buses would leave the Parkway for another route. That day is arriving.
The Mayor, in his LRT Phase 2 plan, had hoped to use the cheaper alternative of a route from Dominion Station to Cleary Avenue along the Parkway, but the NCC has said no to that. While the Mayor seeks to reverse this decision by appealing to local federal politicians (hello, John Baird), it would be wise for the City to consider a Plan B, which, of necessity, will cost a bit more. Using a cut-and-cover approach along the Byron Linear Park would retain the recreational pathway and greenery that exists now and avoid the traffic disruption that digging along Richmond Road would entail. The alternative of an open-style trench like the current Scott Street section would be unacceptable to McKellar Park, Carlingwood and Woodpark residents with good reason, as the recreational pathway, trees and shrubbery would be lost.
The extra cost of a cut-and-cover approach would be bourn by all three funding partners - City, Provincial and Federal Governments - but it would retain an important community amenity. Good luck with Plan A, members of Council, but remember Plan B.