Proposed designs for Albert and Slater Streets were unveiled on November 28 at a public consultation at City Hall. These plans are for a rebuild of the corridor which will happen after LRT construction is complete and Transitway bus traffic has been reduced on the streets.
After the LRT comes online, Transitway buses will no longer run through downtown, as they will be replaced by rail. This provides an opportunity to improve the safety and liveability of the streets.
The consultation included a presentation of the functional design study for the Albert and Slater corridor and an environmental assessment for the Slater and Bronson area.
In opening remarks at the consultation, Somerset Ward Councillor McKenney said, “We have a responsibility to design out any chance of death or injury,” adding that this redesign is an opportunity to ensure that the streets are safer and more pleasant for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
The design plans need to take into account the changing traffic patterns that will be created by light rail, including the increased pedestrian traffic around the new rail stations, to preserve traffic flow, to improve pedestrian safety and comfort, and to provide cycling facilities, as the corridor is a designated cycling spine route (which requires protected cycling facilities).
The design area is split into three zones: in the plans, the eastern end will see the Mackenzie King bridge reduced to two lanes of traffic, with increased space on the sidewalks, possibly with the addition of street furniture or planters to make the space more inviting. The cycle lanes are expected to remain in the middle of the bridge on either side of the median.
In the core section, it is more difficult to widen sidewalks or gain space because the streets are so narrow. The design calls for both streets to remain one-way, with protected bike facilities (likely a painted bike lane separated by flexible posts, rather than a fully separated lane as on Laurier).
At the western end, the biggest changes are proposed. The area is complicated, involving a lot of unused space, several streets converging, and a steep hill at the north end of Bronson. The planners see redesigning this area as a chance to “expand downtown through LeBreton Flats,” said Peter Stacey, who led the discussion. A major factor in the design plan is the proposed relocation of the Ottawa Public Library’s main branch to LeBreton Flats.
The designs for this section include work to reduce the steepness of the grade at the end of Bronson, and redesigning the intersection by removing a section of Commissioner Street. Because a section of road will be removed, a full environmental impact study will have to be undertaken.
After the presentation, members of the public were invited to come out to the main hall, where they could add their suggestions by sticking notes on a map of the design area or by filling out a suggestion form. The map was soon covered in notes.
A section of unused space in the triangle created by Albert, Slater and Bronson prompted conversation. Some attendees were concerned by the suggestion, during the presentation, that the space could be used for some form of “development.” Many suggested that the space should be left as greenspace —perhaps planted with trees or made the focus of a piece of public art—rather than seen as a potential space to build on.
The designs presented at the November 28 consultation are far from final. The City encourages residents to review the plans (available on the City website at ottawa.ca) and write in with any concerns or suggestions.