Allow me to get a little provincial for a moment… actually, a little municipal. At The Ottawa Citizen, I cover the topic of a cancelled bridge project and the effects on one particular community, Lowertown – a neighbourhood that has little money little political clout:
To cross King Edward as a pedestrian, you either have to engage in a little bit of real-life Frogger — dodging traffic as you run to the median, before continuing to the other side — or you must walk blocks to one of the streets that actually has a crosswalk (you then must wait until the light finally changes). If you want to cross King Edward when driving, well, you do not want to cross King Edward when driving.
This is why the recent decision of the provincial government, killing a proposal for a new bridge at Kettle Island, is such a gut shot to Lowertown. It is a forgotten little neighbourhood with little room for expansion and few connections to other communities. It is a community that has neither the economic nor the political clout to force governments to concern themselves with the neighbourhood’s problems. It is not Manor Park. It is not the Glebe
A little background: King Edward Avenue is a main road through downtown Ottawa which leads to a bridge to Quebec. It is about ten blocks from Parliament Hill and creates a divide between the Byward Market (a major tourist/entertainment hub, with lost of new condo development) and Lowertown (a poorer neighbourhood with no such attractions). Transport trucks drive through downtown and cross the river via King Edward. It’s ridiculous and it creates a nasty barrier between the two neighbourhoods. For decades, Ottawa has been trying to build a new bridge in the east end to connect with Quebec.
After years of study (and millions of dollars), the provinces of Quebec and Ontario – along with the National Capital Commission – decided to go ahead with a new bridge. Within weeks of the announcement, it was scuttled by the Ontario government (despite having been a part of the planning process). It was pure NIMBYism. The neighbourhood of Manor Park didn’t want a new bridge near their neighbourhood.
Manor Park, being more politcally important, won, and Lowertown will continue to suffer.
A hat tip goes out to Timothy Lee for his coverage of urban development.