Acknowledging the challenges, the Ottawa River Parkway route would provide Ottawa residents with direct, cost-effective transit from the City’s western to eastern reaches. For each proposed station eliminated between Lincoln Fields and Dominion stations, this becomes even more true.
Most people recognize that, generally, the significant costs for LRT development pose a risk to the City’s finances. For a city of fewer than one million people, the downtown portion that is the City’s current focus will cost at least $2.1B. Before the first shovel has hit the ground, the City has already eliminated one of only four proposed downtown stations – the one nearest Parliament Hill – to help contain costs. Currently there is no funding identified for a Western route. Of all the options it has explored to date, the City has costed the Ottawa River Parkway route as hundreds of millions to billions of dollars less expensive than the Richmond-Byron options it has identified. If one or the other must be chosen, affordability will be a key consideration.
The City proposes to remove the Ottawa River Parkway’s two eastbound lanes – dominated by intense bus traffic during peak period – and replace them with tracks. Compare this to the Richmond-Byron options, where the City proposes to remove significant portions of parkland and narrow an already-congested city street.
Beyond the significant cost and green space implications, the Ottawa River Parkway route would literally be felt by hundreds fewer families. However well mitigated, frequent trains cause vibration and noise that can damage nearby homes and affect the families living in them. Holding all other things equal, distance from the tracks is a key in minimizing the negative impacts of trains. Running through the Richmond-Byron routes affects at least 10 times more homes, and in many cases, places trains as close as 10m to people’s homes. If tracks must run somewhere, then it is smarter to choose the option that is farthest from the greatest number of homes: if forced to compare only the Richmond-Byron and Ottawa River Parkway options, the Parkway route is clearly far less damaging to families and communities.
Considering the full range of choices before the City, Neighbours for Smart Western Rail is not advocating to put rail on the Ottawa River Parkway. If the faced with the narrowest of choices – Ottawa River Parkway or Richmond-Byron – we must recognize that the Parkway route is less costly and that it is less damaging to parkland, a vibrant neighbourhood, and hundreds more homes than the Richmond-Byron options. However, we believe that such a choice is too limited and shortsighted. We are committed to working with the City and all interested parties to see better options, such as an affordable Carling option, prevail.