Area city councillors and long-time opponents of a possible interprovincial bridge in the east end are upset over work being done on the Ottawa River near Green’s Creek to test the soil and bedrock for just that possibility.
|A drilling barge has spent the several weeks taking core samples on the Ottawa River near previously proposed sites for an interprovincial bridge including Lower Duck Island. PIERRE LEBLANC PHOTO
According to the NCC’s own information, geotechnical studies are being conducted on both sides of the Ottawa River at three possible locations – Kettle Island, which would link into the Aviation Parkway; Lower Duck Island near Green’s Creek which would link into Hwy. 174 just east of the Canotek Business Park; and McLaurin Bay, which would link into Hwy. 174 at Green’s Creek but cross much closer to Convent Glen North.
All three locations were identified in a 2013 Interprovincial Crossing study as the top three potential sites for a bridge, however, the Kettle Island location was rated #1 because it was both the cheapest and easiest in terms of linking it to existing roads and highways.
After the proposal drew the ire of oppo-nents of all three potential locations, the Ontario Liberal government of the day with-drew it’s support for a possible sixth interprovincial crossing. Those same oppo-nents are gearing up for another fight, they thought they’d already won.
Local resident and bridge opponent Pierre Leblanc is upset that the federal government has decided to spend millions of dollars on yet another study and more testing for a bridge, the need for which is questionable at best.
“I am upset that the federal leadership continues to spend our tax dollars to pursue a project that has not yet been proven to be required at a time of a massive combination of national, provincial and municipal budget deficits and debt,” says Leblanc, who is also upset with the NCC’s lack of transparency in conducting it’s Refresh Study. “It looks like the Liberals will build a bridge, damn the financial torpedoes.”
Orléans East-Cumberland ward councillor Matt Luloff is upset over the NCC’s decision to keep the Lower Duck/Green’s Creek location in the mix.
“Four studies have identified Kettle Island as the best and cheapest option should the federal government wish to move forward with a sixth crossing,” Luloff points out.
“Our infrastructure in the east end cannot handle any additional traffic. The 174 already operates beyond capacity at rush hour and the split has been a mess for decades. Couple these issues with the fact that Orléans only has two viable ways in and out of it, and a bridge east of the Vanier Parkway would be a disaster.”
Luloff goes on, “The federal government should stop wasting money trying to get a different answer to the same information, and should be properly communicating with east end residents what their intention is. I and my fellow east end city councillors will fight this to the end.”
Beacon Hill-Cyrville councillor Tim Tierney, whose ward includes the Lower Duck Island/Green’s Creek site is incred-ulous that the NCC is still considering the controversial location.
“We’ve already established that a bridge shouldn’t be built at Lower Duck Island for all kinds of reasons. So why they continue to include it in their studies is crazy to me,” says Tierney.
The NCC does not have a very good track record when it comes to transparency and a sixth potential interprovincial crossing.
In 2019, the Commission released a report conducted by the engineering firm WSP which failed to name a preferred corridor, nor did it lay out the estimated cost of the three east end options being evaluated.
It took some investigative journalism on the part of the CBC to uncover that WSP had done additional work for Public Services and Procurement Canada which confirmed the best site for a new bridge is at Kettle Island and that it would cost about $300 million less than the Lower Duck Island/Green’s Creek location. The estimated cost to build a bridge at Kettle Island in 2019 was $1.81 billion.
When the CBC questioned the NCC about the additional information the agency failed to make public, officials with the NCC said it was meant for “internal use” only. That study cost $1.4 million to complete.
The biggest argument against building a bridge at Lower Duck Island is the impact it would have on the 174 and the split. As many as 25,000 additional cars and trucks would be added to the roadway during peak hours.
In order to properly handled that level of increase in traffic, the split would have to be completely re-engineered and rebuilt – the cost of which has not been included in any existing study.
A bridge at Kettle Island would also add thousands of additional cars to the Aviation Parkway and the split, but a ramp onto Hwy. 417 already exists and mitigating measures have already been examined including limiting access to the Aviation Parkway from side streets and building a tunnel for the section near the Montfort Hostoital to limit traffic noise. Access to the 174 would have to be provided both eastbound and westbound.
The Trudeau government promised to build a new interprovincial bridge during the 2019 federal election campaign. After the election, they provided funding to the NCC in 2019 and 2021 budgets to conduct additional studies to help choose a preferred site.
The Sixth Interprovincial Bridge Crossing Study Refresh was the first step to do just that. The test drilling being conducted on the Ottawa River this fall is just another step which has to be carried out to help decide where to build the bridge.
According to Public Services and Pro-curement Canada, the results of the tests which involve drilling 21 boreholes through the river sediment to bedrock, “will be used to understand whether a site may be appropriate to support the structure of a potential crossing.”
Luloff and Tierney say they plan to continue to oppose Lower Duck Island as a possible site until it is taken off the table once and for all.
The NCC’s actions in continuing to examine the location as a possible site will likely have to be addressed by the incoming city council and Ottawa’s newly-elected mayor, Mark Sutcliffe, which will put them on a collision course with the Trudeau government.
Then there’s the issue of the MPs whose ridings the testing is being conducted in – Marie-France Lalonde in Orléans and Mona Fortier in Ottawa-Vanier. Both are avoiding speaking on the subject until the NCC has completed its studies. But if the past is any indicator they will both eventually be drawn into the debate whether they like it or not should the federal government press forward with its desitre to build a bridge.