Airport Parkway / Lester Road Widening

In December 2014 the City of Ottawa issued a Notice of Study Commencement for an environmental assessment of widening the Airport Parkway south of Brookfield Road and Lester Road between the Parkway and Bank Street.  The study is expected to take two years.

Here is a Project Overview.  See also

The first meeting of a Public Consultation Group took place on December 4, 2014.  Here is the slide presentation used at that meeting and here are the Notes from the meeting.

The first Open House was held on January 27, 2015 at the Jim Durrell Recreation Centre on Walkley Road.

The second Open House was held on June 17, 2015.

A third Open House was held on March 10, 2016.

A Notice of Completion followed on August 25, 2016. There were no Part II Order requests so this environmental assessment is now valid for the next ten years.  Apart from questioning the timing and even the need for this widening in light of the planned extension of the Trillium line, our interest was to ensure that adequate wildlife crossings are part of the design from the start. The timing resolved itself (see below) and we became satisfied that the interests of wildlife are indeed taken into account.

This process went on apace, while, on January 10, 2016 the news broke that the widening of the Airport Parkway and Lester Road has been pushed back to 2020 or beyond, due to lower than expected revenues from development charges. The Ottawa Citizen quotes the project leader as saying that the deferral was part of the 2016 Budget passed by Council last month.  Quote:

““No one brought that to my attention,” said Coun. Diane Deans, whose Gloucester-Southgate ward includes the airport. “Changes in the budget are not supposed to be well-guarded secrets, and that seems to be what this is.” …  “If council was putting off this project for 10 years, council should have been told that was the impact of voting for that budget.”

An email from Acting General Manager Michael Mizzi explains further:

The 2013 TMP Affordability Analysis was premised on projected Development Charge receipts, and senior level funding. It was expected that $43M-$45M (in 2016 dollars) would be available each year for growth roads.

However, the revised roads growth envelopes for this Term of Council are now projected to be $26M annually. The drivers of the reduced funding envelopes are:

– Lower than forecasted DC receipts (currently at 80% of expected receipts for 2015)

– Reduction in DC Roads rate by 25% through negotiated DC By-law settlement with GOHBA and BOMA

– Repayment of Road DC reserve debt

– PWS requirement for share of available DCs for operational programs

This new reality means that road projects will be introduced at a slower rate in order to match available funding. While the prioritization of projects (Phase 1) as identified in the TMP are still being preserved, staff also considered the pace of development versus real time need; coordination with other projects; and the status of ISD design work as we reviewed project timing.

Specifically, […] the changes include:

The Airport Parkway Widening (Brookfield to Hunt Club) has been shifted from a planned timeframe of 2017-2019 to Phase 2 (sometime between 2020 and 2025). The reasons for this are:

– Public perception that the road competes with the extension of the Trillium Line service.

– Stage 2 LRT Office advises that the road widening is not critical during the construction of the LRT extension, as an alternative transit routing corridor.

However, the Environmental Assessment process would proceed, with the next public meeting scheduled for March 10 at the Jim Durrell Recreation Centre.

Comment: Note especially in Mr. Mizzi’s message:

+ “Reduction in DC Roads rate by 25% through negotiated DC By-law settlement with GOHBA and BOMA” — a give-away that had not been made public to my knowledge; and

+ “Stage 2 LRT Office advises that the road widening is not critical during the construction of the LRT extension, as an alternative transit routing corridor.”  — this was a transparently self-serving and nonsensical argument made by Transportation staff to justify the widening, now repudiated by their colleagues at the LRT Office!

Update – January 21, 2016

The Metroland papers report that Mayor Jim Watson is now firmly on board with building the Trillium extension to the Airport before proceeding with widening of the Airport Parkway… if the federal government pays the $160 million bill.  Local MPP John Fraser is also quoted as strongly in favour of this sequence.