Airport Parkway widening gets green light from Transportation Committee

Ottawa's Airport Parkway is one step closer to being widened to four lanes after councillors on the city's Transportation Committee approved an environmental assessment of the project Wednesday.

Give LRT a chance to alleviate congestion before approving road projects, councillor urges

A section of the Ottawa Airoprt Parkway, looking north. (Google)

Ottawa's Airport Parkway is one step closer to being widened to four lanes after councillors on the city's Transportation Committee approved an environmental assessment of the project Wednesday.

But even if council endorses the decision, the city needs to find the estimated $91 million needed to expand both the parkway and the section of Lester Road between the airport and Bank Street.
Coun. Keith Elgi, chair of Ottawa's transportation committee, says the widening project will balance the needs of all commuters. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

If the funding can be secured, work would begin in 2020. Widening the parkway between Brookfield and Hunt Club roads would be completed by 2025, when work on the remaining section of parkway and Lester Road would start.

The project would include a multi-use pathway for pedestrians and cyclists.

Give transit a chance, councillor urges

Although the vote carried with nine committee members for and only two against, most of the public delegations at Wednesday's meeting spoke out against the project, arguing that a wider parkway will simply draw more vehicles. 

Coun. Catherine McKenney, whose Somerset Ward lies to the north of the parkway, voted against the widening plan.
Coun. Catherine McKenney voted against widening the Airport Parkway, arguing the plan will simply draw more vehicles. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

"I'm not convinced we need to widen roads, especially those roads that run beside a transit line, and a future transit line," said McKenney, referring to the adjacent O-Train line that will soon form part of the city's expanded LRT system.

McKenney argued the planned Trillium Line, which will see the existing O-Train extended south past the airport to Bowesville by 2023 should be given a chance to help alleviate congestion before roads are extended or widened.

"The evidence is clear that it (road widening) induces more traffic, it does not compel people to take transit," said McKenney.

Parkway now commuter route

Representatives from the Ottawa Airport Authority offered their support for the widening during Wednesday's meeting.

Originally designed as a route to and from the airport, the Airport Parkway has over the years evolved as a commuter route between downtown and Ottawa's south end. With that has come congestion — sometimes heavy, especially during rush hours.

Krista Kealy, vice president of communications and public affairs for the airport authority, asked councillors to consider the needs of travellers who find themselves stuck in traffic on the parkway. 

"This is one element of a solution," said Kealey. "We believe in a multi-modal solution, and that includes an airport link in the light rail transit plan as well."

The chair of the transportation committee, Keith Egli, stressed that while road widenings are no panacea, they do fit into the options the city has at its disposal to address congestion.

"We're not a small town," said Egli. "Transportation has to be about balance. There has to be options available."

(City of Ottawa)