Stittsville residents throw 'Rosehill Expressway' party to protest spike in traffic

Some Stittsville residents are fighting back over the impending closure of what's gradually become a main thoroughfare in the west Ottawa community — by throwing a tongue-in-cheek party.

Community calls for traffic safety study before nearby road closes

A portion of Johnwoods Street between Maple Grove Road and Rosehill Avenue is set to close permanently Wednesday, diverting traffic into a residential neighbourhood. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Some Stittsville residents are protesting the impending closure of what's become a main thoroughfare in the west Ottawa community — by throwing a party.

The "Rosehill Expressway" party is set for Sunday afternoon, a tongue-in-cheek attempt to draw attention to what residents say will be a surge in traffic on Rosehill Avenue, when the city closes a portion of nearby Johnwoods Street later this week.

"We're worried that we're going to have cars speeding down a long, wide street with no stop signs," said Carol Lenz, the president of the Bryanston Gate Community Association.

"We want people to know the 'Rosehill Expressway' is coming, and we want to make sure that doesn't happen. We want to have safety measures in place first."

Carol Lenz, president of the Bryanston Gate Community Association says the communities around Johnwoods Street want a thorough traffic study to look into how the closure of the northern portion of the street will affect nearby roads. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

On Nov. 15, the city is expected to close off Johnwoods Street to car traffic from Maple Grove Road to Rosehill Avenue. That stretch is being rebuilt as a multi-use pathway for pedestrians and cyclists.

The work is expected to last until the summer of 2018.

According to the City of Ottawa construction notice issued last month, the downgrading of Johnwoods Street from a major road to a local street is part of a subdivision agreement with developer Mattamy Homes.

A contractor with Mattamy will carry out the work.

Over time, the street has "experienced issues with cut-through traffic as population growth has outpaced the development of the arterial road network," the city said.

We're wondering, what's the hurry? We'd rather see safety first- Carol Lenz

Lenz told CBC News on Saturday that the neighbourhood already experiences significant traffic due to the nearby Canadian Tire Centre, where the Ottawa Senators play their home games.

"We can see somewhere up to 200 to 400 cars within an hour and a half, at peak periods, both mornings and evenings," Lenz said.

"And [that's not just] on game days. We live in close proximity to the Canadian Tire Centre — so on game days, that traffic is just a huge amount, going to and from the game."

Want project to be delayed

She said residents aren't opposed to closing Johnwoods Street, but rather want a comprehensive traffic management survey to be carried out first.

That survey would determine whether stop signs, chicanes or other traffic-calming measures are needed on Rosehill Avenue, Lenz added.

"We're going to route traffic down here with very little preparation, and we're putting people at risk before we know what definitive measures should be taken to ameliorate that risk," she said.

"We're wondering, what's the hurry? We'd rather see safety first."

Sunday's "light-hearted" block party, Lenz said, would include hot chocolate, friendly conversation — and the unveiling of a "Rosehill Expressway" road sign.

Stittsville Coun. Shad Qadri said Johnwoods Street was never meant to be a main thoroughfare, and that traffic-calming measures had been installed last week on Rosehill Avenue.

"It's a much wider street, and it's meant to handle collector traffic," Qadri said.

The city will also carry out a study sometime after Johnwoods Street closes, he added, to figure out how Rosehill Avenue has been affected by the change in traffic volumes.

"They can't do that prior to the closure of the road," Qadri said.

With files from Kimberley Molina