Transportation plan for future Civic hospital flawed, neighbours say

Residents living near the site of The Ottawa Hospital's future Civic campus are asking for a meeting with Canada's infrastructure minister over what they say are flawed parking and transportation plans.

Community association worried about traffic, parking, and removal of trees

This illustration shows the future Civic Hospital site, slated to open in 2028. The Civic Hospital Neighbourhood Association is expressing concerns about parking and traffic and wants to meet with federal Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna. (The Ottawa Hospital)

Residents living near the site of The Ottawa Hospital's future Civic campus are asking for a meeting with Canada's infrastructure minister over what they say are flawed parking and transportation plans.

At the beginning of May, the hospital presented its plans to a city committee for its long-discussed $2.8-billion hospital on an escarpment near Dow's Lake, due to open in 2028.

But after poring over details of the over 1,000-page transportation study, the Civic Hospital Neighbourhood Association (CHNA) has now hired its own traffic specialist to delve further into that report.

"Our feeling is this is too important a project, on too important a piece of land, to pinch pennies and not do it right," said Karen Wright, president of the association. 

The group wants the federal government to spend additional money on underground parking facilities — the parking lot is going on federal land — and it fears any future expansion could encroach on the adjacent Central Experimental Farm and other nearby green space.

Right now, the proposal calls for a four-storey parkade, covered by a park.

"It's similar in size to the parking lot at the Ottawa airport, so that will frame for you how big this is," Wright said. 

"It's important that it's the right size, but it's also important that it is not this mammoth parking spot on a very historic spot."

The CHNA believes the plan doesn't account for a potential tripling in employees by the time the hospital is built. Nor do they think there will be enough parking spots, and it calls the public transit usage projections in the study overly optimistic.

The group also wants to avoid removing more than 600 trees as part of plans to build two surface lots.

"Some tree removal is inevitable. However, we are looking ... to minimize it as much as possible," said Wright. 

Karen Wright, president of the Civic Hospital Neighbourhood Association, says nearby residents want to get the once-in-a-lifetime project right. (Submitted by Karen Wright)

Federal help sought

The CHNA has now asked for a meeting with Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna, the federal minister of infrastructure and communities.

McKenna's press secretary, Emelyana Titarenko, told CBC her office was aware of the CHNA's concerns. 

"Should there be a desire for additional funding for the project, the Ontario Ministry of Infrastructure would be responsible for prioritizing this project under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program," Titarenko said in the statement. 

The hospital's plan also doesn't properly address the possibility that more homes will be built nearby, said Noel Lomer, who is organizing a rally against the site Sunday at Commissioners Park.

Lomer said he worries about congestion and is concerned streets may be widened to accommodate an increase in traffic. He said he'd rather see the new hospital be built at the previously recommended Tunney's Pasture site.

"It is going to cause enormous problems in the centre of the city for decades," said Lomer. 

"One thing that keeps coming to my mind is Joni Mitchell — pave paradise and put up a parking lot. Because that is exactly what is happening."

According to the transportation plan filed to the city, the new Civic campus would have 3,099 parking spaces, with 2,500 in the public garage labelled Zone 7 in this diagram. (City of Ottawa/HDR)

Plan not final, says hospital

In a statement, The Ottawa Hospital said it was grateful for the community's engagement.

"We are currently consulting with communities and all levels of government in Ottawa and across the region and welcome the public's comments on the proposed design for the new development. The site plan is not yet final, and it will continue to be adjusted based on consultations," said the statement. 

The hospital said it would be welcoming feedback during each stage of the planning process.

Ottawa city council must approve the site's master plan, which is expected to go before planning committee in late August.


Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.


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