Mayor pushes for downtown truck tunnel

Mayor Jim Watson will ask the province and feds to split the cost of a study to build a truck tunnel through the downtown core.

Forget about a new interprovincial bridge, Mayor Jim Watson told councillors and residents Wednesday.

“We can bark up that tree all we want, it’s not happening,” Watson said.

The transportation committee gave Watson the go-ahead to start negotiating a cost-sharing agreement to study a downtown tunnel bypass connecting trucks and cars from the Macdonald-Cartier bridge to Highway 417 using the Vanier Parkway interchange. Only Coun. Michael Qaqish withheld support.

If the province and feds agree, the approximately $6 million environmental assessment would refine the project’s estimated cost, route and scope over the next three years.

The tunnel is the only viable way to solve the decades-long issue of approximately 2,500 18-wheelers and other commercial trucks weaving through the densely populated downtown core each day, Watson said.

But not everyone was convinced.

Coun. Riley Brockington complained that without studying a bridge option, there’s no way to know a tunnel is indeed the best solution.

Downtown Rideau BIA director Peggy DuCharme argued a bridge is the only way to remove hazardous material from the core. Trucks hauling dangerous goods wouldn’t be allowed in the tunnel.


But it’s not a bridge option hasn’t been looked at.

The National Capital Commission spearheaded a joint-government study to consider possible crossings five years ago, but it got dumped in 2013 when Ontario refused to support the preferred Kettle Island route through Manor Park.

While the tunnel’s a welcome development in that community, Penny Thompson with the Manor Park Community Association still asked planners to reconsider the tunnel’s preferred route to the Vanier Parkway, arguing it’s one of the more costly options and therefore risks getting shelved.

With an estimated $1.7- to $2-billion construction cost, the project may be too tall an order to actually get anything done, agreed John Verbaas with Action Sandy Hill.

“There’s a lot of fear in our communities that this problem will continue to languish for another decade,” he said.

Suburban and rural councillors, however, feared the opposite. Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder and George Darouze both worried the study funding – which committee directed staff to include in next year’s budget – will leapfrog over other projects.

But transportation manager John Manconi said existing EA budgets won’t be bumped.

This article originally appeared on Metro News on Sept. 7.