Big changes coming to Scott, Albert streets once LRT opens

The City of Ottawa has unveiled its plan for how a connected stretch of Scott and Albert streets will look following the opening of the east-west Confederation light rail line next summer.

New-look thoroughfare discussed at community meeting Monday night

OC Transpo buses travel past a bus stop on Scott Street on Jan. 17, 2016. The city has unveiled its plans for how Scott and Albert streets will look following the opening of the Confederation light rail line. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC Ottawa)

The City of Ottawa has unveiled its plan for how a two-kilometre stretch of Scott and Albert streets will look following the expected opening of the east-west Confederation light rail line next summer.

The reconfigured stretch will run from approximately the City Centre building westward to Tunney's Pasture, and cyclists, pedestrians and drivers will all see major changes to how the roadway operates.

According to the city's drawings — shown at a public consultation Monday evening — the number of lanes would be reduced from four to three, with two lanes for westbound traffic but only one heading east toward downtown.

A multi-use pathway that currently exists on the north side of Scott and Albert streets will remain, but will eventually be made off-limits to eastbound cyclists.

Those cyclists will instead use a raised "cycle track" on the opposite side of the streets, the documents show. 

Eastbound bus stops will also be placed on platforms that jut out from the curb, allowing cyclists to pass behind them.

This diagram shows how bicycle traffic on a multi-use pathway on the north side of Scott and Albert streets will be affected by changes following the opening of light rail in mid-2018. (City of Ottawa)

"I like that the city is doing something at all. They could've just been really cheap and said we'll wait until Phase 2 of the LRT opens, and then we'll do things," said Eric Darwin, who blogs about urban issues in Ottawa at West Side Action.

However, Darwin told CBC Radio's All in a Day he was concerned the plans don't do enough to improve the heavily-used Bayview Road intersection, and that the multi-use pathway should remain open in both directions.

"I think [the cycle track] will be appealing to people who want to go quite quickly, like the commuters," Darwin said. "But the pathway is much more appealing to older people like myself, or people who are recreational cyclists."

'Interim step'

Kitchisippi Coun. Jeff Leiper said Darwin had many legitimate concerns about the plan, but called the separated cycle track — which would be kept clear in the winter — a "huge leap forward" over what the city proposed in the spring.

He also noted this was an "interim step" until Scott and Albert become what's known as a complete street — a road that's shared equally by cars, cyclists, pedestrians and transit users. 

"There is clearly some latitude to make further improvements," Leiper told All in a Day. "And I hope these are the sorts of considerations that residents are going to be raising this evening."

In the planning documents, the city says it could revisit the proposed three-lane configuration if development along the corridor requires the fourth lane to be reopened to traffic.

One major development in the works along that corridor is a multi-use building at 900 Albert St., just across from the future Bayview LRT station, that would feature more than 1,600 residential units along with retail and office space.

Consultation until Dec. 18

At a public consultation at the Tom Brown Arena Monday evening, people who live nearby said they favour focusing on the street being used by pedestrians and cyclists.

Some raised questions about why parking spots were included in the design drawings at all. 

Louise Lafond said she uses Scott Street as a motorist, cyclist and pedestrian with her two young children.

"You have to be super careful crossing the street because the line of sight is terrible. And that's bad for the cars, for cyclists, for pedestrians," she said, adding she's optimistic the new plan will work for all road users.

Coun. Jeff Leiper, seen in the light grey sweater, spoke to residents at a consultation on the Scott Street redesign at the Tom Brown Arena on Dec. 11, 2017. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Heather Pearl, co-chair of the Champlain Park Community Association, said she hopes the interim plan will be a permanent step toward the complete street principles of the Scott Street Community Design Plan.

She said the redesign was a step in the right direction, though she'll be watching the implementation.

"I don't want to see more traffic lanes. I think we should be trying to move away from the emphasis on the cars. That is so '70s," Pearl said. 

"We should be moving more toward a city you could walk in, that you feel safe walking down the street." 

Second redesign

The plan marks the second major redesign of the two streets in less than three years.

Scott and Albert streets were both widened to accommodate thousands of OC Transpo buses displaced from the Transitway when LRT construction began in 2016.

Many nearby residents did not appreciate those changes.

Residents are able to submit comments on the plan until Dec. 18.

With files from CBC's All in a Day and Matthew Kupfer