"An affront to democracy!" "Appalling!" Ottawa Councillor Diane Deans, representing upscale Alta Vista, could barely contain herself.
What a fine piece of news to wake up to: a key city committee in Ottawa has put what promises to be the kibosh on the Alta Vista corridor--another massive expressway project threatening to pave communities and congest the downtown area with hundreds more cars per hour.
A little history here. Expressways are the wave of the past. The concept has no place in 21st-century thinking. Car-centred planning is being replaced by the notion of environment-friendly public transport, like buses and light rail. But a few years back, the corridor--which would bring cars and trucks down a four-lane highway into the heart of Ottawa's downtown--somehow found itself part of the official city plan.
The battle has been on, with lulls, ever since. For a while, it looked like the fix was in. The firm advising the city on the corridor was also first in line to bid on the eventual road-building contract. Their "environmental assessment" of increased traffic flows took place at off-peak hours, and did not include the effects of vastlly increased traffic into the downtown core. $5 million was set aside by city bureaucrats in the 2005 budget to commence work.
Then the mayor, Bob Chiarelli, stepped in. Now, I've always had a dim view of the man--a Liberal apparatchik, great defender of the police after their assault on peaceful protesters at the September 2001 G-20 (yes, I do tend to carry grudges), took the only police critic off the Police Services Board, that sort of thing. But I might even vote for him after this. In April, he held a press conference to express his strong opposition to the current corridor plan. Now the city committee has recommended that $32 million be deleted from the long-range budget (which is where the corridor money would have come from) and the corridor lands be devoted to green space and community recreational areas.
Ah, parks of rest and culture.
Chiarelli, being the politician that he is, said that this doesn't necessarily kill the corridor in the future, just for the next fifteen years. The Alta Vista councillor is hopping mad, though, and says this effectively "sterilizes" the land--and let's hope she's right. All that is needed now is City Council approval for the back-flip. The July 13 Council meeting may be the final conflict in this long saga of roads versus people.