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(Posted 7:30 a.m., June 15)
Watson adds voice to 'No bridge!' movement

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has added his voice to the growing opposition to a proposed interprovincial bridge in the east end.

Speaking on CFRA Thursday, Watson said a bridge will make a bad situation worse on the Ottawa side by adding traffic to a network that is already over capacity.

"Why would you put an extra $500 million to $600 million into a bridge when you just make matters worse for residents in Orléans," said Watson. "The bridge will further jam up traffic in the east end."

Later he told CTV news that the money that would be used to build a bridge would be better spent on light rail.

"At the end of the day if we have an extra half billion plus dollars I want to see those dollars go into transit to encourage people to get into light rail to get into a bus and to not simply get into a car and go from one province to another and clog up the 417 even further in the east end."

Watson's statements echo those of Ottawa-Orléans MPP Phil McNeely who told an anti-bridge rally on Tuesday that a bridge at any of the locations currently being studied would nullify the work being done to fix the Split and widen the eastern portion Hwy. 417.

"A bridge, whether it's built at Kettle Island or in Orléans, will add thousands of cars commuting from Gatineau and more than 2,200 trucks a day to the Split and Hwy. 417, which will completely overwhelm the extra lanes that are being built," said McNeely. "The answer is clear, no bridge."

The rally brought together community groups opposed to a bridge for the first time. Previously, the groups opposed to a bridge in Corridor 5 took the position of that a bridge should be built anywhere but Kettle Island which implied that it should be built in either Corridor 6 or 7. They're are now of the opinion that none of the options are appropriate.

The Interprovincial Crossings Study has entered a critical phase. The study team is currently gathering public input to help in weighting the various factors and sub-factors that will be used in evaluating the three location.

An 22-member evaluation commitee will meet in September to review the factors and sub-factors using a pair-wise comparison model and arrive at a preferred location. It will then be up to the NCC and the provincial governments in Ontario and Quebec to either support the recommended location or not.

A new inerprovincial bridge is supposed to serve a dual-purpose -- to improve traffic flow across the Ottawa River and to alleviate truck traffic downtown and especially along King Edward Avenue.

The argument against the proposed sites is that a new bridge will benefit Gatineau residents to the detriment of Orléans residents and it will only divert 40 per cent of the truck traffic as the majority of trucks will still use the MacDonald-Cartier Bridge and the Chaudiere Bridge.

Opponents are also questioning the truck traffic projections, noting the report fails to take the completion of Hwy. 50 between Gatineau and Montreal into consideration. The highway is scheduled to be completed next year which will allow Quebec trucks direct access between the two centres. At this point is not known what, if any, impact the new highway will have on interprovincial truck traffic.

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)

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