Slower, livelier, bike-friendly: Latest plans for Elgin Street 'transformation' revealed

The latest plans for a major redesign of Elgin Street reveal a downtown strip that's livelier, more accessible and friendlier to cyclists — just don't try driving there for a while.

Construction will close busy downtown strip to vehicles throughout 2019

The city says the Elgin Street redesign will include 'ample' bicycle parking. The redesign will reduce car parking from 120 to 90 spaces. (City of Ottawa)

The latest plans for a major redesign of Elgin Street reveal a downtown strip that's livelier, more accessible and friendlier to cyclists — just don't try driving there for a while. 

The updated design, unveiled at Ottawa City Hall Wednesday night, includes tweaks stemming from a public consultation in May, and the notable absence of overhead wires following a decision in late August to bury them.

Pending council approval, 1.2 kilometres of Elgin Street between Gloucester Street and the Queen Elizabeth Driveway will eventually be reduced from four lanes to two, with turning lanes.

The sidewalks will be widened and parking reduced from 120 spaces to 90.

That will require Elgin Street to be closed to vehicular traffic throughout 2019, with occasional lane closures or full road closures in 2020 to finish it off.

The cost of the project has been pegged at $36.3 million.

City unveils plan for Elgin Street

3 years ago
Duration 0:39
Trish Chang and Charles Akben-Marchand were among those who turned out to see the city's plan for a redeveloped Elgin Street. Construction will close the downtown street to vehicles for all of 2019.

Accessibility tweaks

Alain Gonthier, the city's director of infrastructure services, said the city reduced the use of rough, cobblestone-style pavers on the sidewalk based on feedback from people concerned about mobility.

He said the city won't be able to add "gradients" — essentially, ramps — to the entrance of each building.

"What we've made sure is that Elgin Street itself would not be a barrier from an accessibility perspective," Gonthier said.

The proposed south-facing view of Elgin Street near Waverley Street. The bollards and pavers indicate parking spots that could also be rented as patios for restaurants. (City of Ottawa)

'Super sharrows'

The redesign for Elgin does not include separated or painted bike lanes, but so-called "super sharrows."

The installation of the bright green-painted boxes led to confusion for both motorists and cyclists on Holland Avenue when they were installed this past summer as part of a detour for the Harmer Bridge.

Coun. Catherine McKenney said there are other measures that will make Elgin inviting for cyclists.

The view facing north on Elgin Street. The city says cyclists and cars will have to share a single lane for vehicular traffic in each direction and the priority was on traffic-calming measures and wide sidewalks. (City of Ottawa)

"What makes Elgin different than Holland certainly is that it is … the first arterial really in the city that is designed for an operating speed of 30 km/h," McKenney said. "The design will ensure that we have traffic calming."

Gonthier said raised intersections will also help slow vehicles.

Still open for business

Some people who attended the meeting complained that between lane reductions on Elgin and O'Connor streets, the city is making it more and more difficult for motorists to navigate the downtown.

Asked whether the city had considered a new parkade in the Elgin Street area, a city official answered the idea hadn't come up in prior consultations, and pointed out that free parking is being provided on evenings and weekends in the City Hall parking garage for the duration of road work.

Robin Coull, owner of Pot and Pantry on Elgin, said she's looking forward to the final design being brought to life. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Businesses on Elgin are working to remind people that, despite the year-long road closure, they will still be accessible on foot during construction.

"I'm quite excited at what it's going to look like afterward. I think it's going to completely transform Elgin Street into this friendly community," said Robin Coull, owner of Pot and Pantry.