What is proposed: The Altavista Transport Corridor (AVTC) is a plan to connect Walkley Road (at Conroy) to the Queensway (at the Nicholas ramp) with a multi-lane expressway. It would cut through parks and greenspaces in Alta Vista as well as the greenspace between Riverside and the Rideau River, crossing the river and paving over the greenspace at 160 Lees Avenue (Springhurst Park) before arriving at the Queensway. The proposed route is displayed in Figure 1, below, along with figure 2, depicting the AVTC in the broader city context.
The AVTC, also known as the Alta Vista Parkway, has officially been part of the City of Ottawa Official Plan (OP) since 1966. In 2005, there was an Environmental Assessment (EA) conducted, but that EAis now six years past its expiry date. The current review of Ottawa’s Official Plan and the Transportation Master Plan provide an opportunity to re-assess whether the AVTC is still in line with the city’s goals. Despite the mayor’s continued opposition, the AVTC still appears in schedule C4 of the draft Official Plan.
While the new Official Plan is set to be adopted in early 2022, the Transportation Masterplan won’t be updated until 2024. We propose to have all reference to the AVTC removed from the draft OP; if, during the process of updating the TMP, a need for the AVTC is identified,, it could be reconsidered then.
Figure 1 - Land that would be occupied by the AVTC (in white).
Figure 2 - AVTC within the broader city’s transportation context.
Why we care: The roughly 100 hectares of land (187 football fields) originally reserved for the AVTC provide essential functions for local residents. This corridor of green infrastructure filters stormwater, provides a habitat for urban wildlife, and offers a place of green respite for residents. With the city poised to intensify by 51% over the next 30 years, accessible greenspaces will become all the more important. From Alta Vista to Pleasant Park and up through Old Ottawa East, these lands are used year-round by residents for outdoor recreation such as dog walking, gardening, bird watching and daily exercise, as well as for pickup sports and games. In one of the most densely populated and low-income communities of Capital Ward, Lees field is also a gathering place for both recreational and competitive sports teams.
Placing an expressway, with associated fumes and noise pollution, through largely residential areas and greenspace is antithetical to the city’s goals of 15-minute neighborhoods. As a result, the area surrounding Lees Station, which is set to see densification in the coming years, would be completely isolated from the rest of Old Ottawa East.
The increased noise and decreased air quality will also take its toll on residents. Parks and greenspace are invaluable for all of our mental health and well-being, particularly during COVID. Both noise and air pollution are linked to poorer health outcomes, increased disease and elevated stress levels.
Due to the massive carbon footprint resulting from both the construction of the expressway, as well as the emissions from the resulting increase in traffic, the AVTC is out of step with the Climate Emergency declared by city council in April, 2019.
Both the Kilbourn Allotment garden in Alta Vista and Lees field in Old Ottawa East support climate resilience by bolstering local food production, and meeting the Official Plan target of providing adequate greenspace and parks to all of the city’s residents. As stated in the OP (p.83, 4.4.1 and p.84, 4.4.3), it is significantly easier to preserve greenspace than it is to create it from scratch in the urban core.
The AVTC would incentivize driving as a primary means of transport for residents of Ottawa’s south end who commute to the city’s core, while offering no benefit for those who actually live there. This would greatly increase congestion on both Nicholas Street, which is already operating at 95% capacity during peak hours, and Lees Avenue; neither of these streets has room to grow.
Such a traffic-inducing project is sufficiently irresponsible in its own right, but it is made all the worse by the fact that it will undercut the city’s attempts to shift more people to transit, as the very purpose of LRT Phase 2 (Trillium Line)--which the city is already in the process of building--is to provide rapid transportation for residents from the same area that the AVTC is claiming to serve.
Further, there is considerable evidence that the population growth of Southern Ottawa, and specifically the community of Riverside South, has fallen significantly short of the predictions laid out in the 2005 Environmental Assessment. While it was predicted that the population of Riverside South in 2021 would be over 50,000, by the end of 2020, that community had reached only 18,724 residents. This demonstrates a significant gap between the future scenario laid out in the 2005 EA which is used to justify the AVTC, and the reality of today.
What we need to do: Sadly, the ‘Hospital Link’ section of the AVTC was constructed and has been operational since 2019. Budgeted at $55 million, the construction of the Hospital Link was never requested by the hospitals nor the local community, which has now been severed in two. Since construction, use of the corridor has been minimal. It would appear that its primary purpose is to make the construction of the remaining two-thirds of the AVTC seem more logical and inevitable. Rough estimates for the cost of the entire AVTC are around $250 million (and probably significantly more, given the time elapsed from the last estimates). We do not need to dig ourselves deeper into this hole.
Ottawa is a changing city, and, as with many Canadian and North American cities, we are evolving past the last-century thinking that promoted car dominance. We understand now that car-centric planning leads to poorer cities, environmental degradation and a lower quality of living. A 50-year old traffic project is not the future of our city, and it is time to leave it in the past.
- Old Ottawa East Community Association archived document about history of AVTC issue: https://www.ottawaeast.ca/avtc-history
- 2012 Mainstreeter article about AVTC: http://www.mainstreeter.ca/?wpfb_dl=39
- February, 2021 Mainstreeter article about the UOttawa quidditch team’s opposition to the AVTC. http://www.mainstreeter.ca/index.php/2021/02/14/quest-for-quidditch-grassroots-opponents-to-the-alta-vista-traffic-corridor-emerge/
- Action Sandy Hill archived document about history of AVTC issue https://ash-acs.ca/alta-vista-corridor-avc/
- 2011 CBC article about Hospital Link project within broader AVTC issue: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/hospital-road-link-renews-expressway-fears-1.1045323
- 2019 Hospital Link update from Canadian Consulting Engineer publication. https://www.canadianconsultingengineer.com/awards/pdfs/2019/B-12_ParsonsAltaVistaHospitalLink.pdf