May 28, 2020
Ottawa Mayor and Councillors call for infrastructure supports for development of Ottawa’s Active Transportation Networks
The COVID-19 pandemic has in many respects been a transformative event for the City of Ottawa. It has shined a light on our existing travel patterns and led to a serious self-examination on how we want to move as a city. Even in a city that has always prided itself on our greenspaces, our walking and cycling paths, and our nature trails, over the past few weeks, we have seen a strong rise in the number of residents walking or cycling to get around. Additionally, we are also in the midst of expanding the largest piece of transit infrastructure our city has ever known with the Confederation and Trillium Lines of LRT. As we begin to move into the COVID-19 recovery, it is imperative that we seize this opportunity to look towards smart planning strategies that build up the necessary infrastructure to expand our cycling, pedestrian and multi-modal networks. We know that expanding our active transportation networks – especially the connectivity to transit – will allow residents to move around in an easier, healthier, and safer way.
As Ottawa prepares the Transportation Master Plan as part of the updated Official Plan, within that strategy are the Ottawa Cycling Plan and Ottawa Pedestrian Plan. These two strategy documents are long-term plans that set the direction for how our multi-modal networks will develop in the years to come. However, this experience with the pandemic has highlighted the importance of active transportation, and we as a city must take the necessary steps to fast-track the implementation of the two plans and the building up of Ottawa’s active transportation networks. Rather than seen as a “nice to have”, we must prioritize their development in new and existing communities.
In 2019, the population of Ottawa passed the 1 million mark. Over the next 25 years, we are expected to add another 400,000 residents. With this kind of growth, we need to consider how we are moving as a city to ensure we meet those future mobility needs. Now is the opportunity to ensure that we are making all of our communities – whether a mature neighbourhood in Centretown, a new development in Stittsville, or a yet-to-be-built community in Barrhaven – all have the necessary infrastructure to ensure that residents are able to stay physically active, safe, and above all else: connected to the amenities and transit services that are needed in all corners of our city.
But these projects cannot be completed by the City alone; they require financial support from the other levels of government. As Mayor Jim Watson further detailed in his op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen yesterday, the City of Ottawa faces net losses of $66 million by June, $123 million by September, and $186 million come December. Without the support of our federal and provincial partners, these infrastructure project timelines will only be further extended.
Yesterday, Ottawa City Council passed a motion joining cities across the country, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, appealing to the federal government for financial support for municipal programs and services. However, infrastructure stimulus funding is also an essential component of our economic recovery.
Currently, the City of Ottawa has numerous projects such as the Hunt Club Road Cycling Link, the Prescott-Russell Trail, the Maitland Avenue/Highway 417 Bridge cycling improvements, the Cycling link on Moodie Drive between Bells Corners and Moodie LRT station, the Walkley Road Cycling facility, and many others – projects that have been studied and are generally ready to go, but simply lack the necessary funding.
Today, we are looking to our Council colleagues to join us in calling on the provincial and federal governments to help support the pandemic recovery efforts, and partner with us to expand Ottawa’s multi-modal transportation networks. Together, we can prioritize the expansion of our active transportation infrastructure, make a long-term investment in Ottawa residents’ health and well-being, all while addressing our city’s current and future mobility needs.
Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Ave W., Ottawa, ON, K1P 1J1