Transportation System Management

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Transportation System Management

The City of Ottawa aims to maximize the safety, efficiency, capacity and predictability of the existing road network for all users by:

  • Reducing road safety risks
  • Reducing delays and congestion
  • Reducing harmful air emissions and fuel consumption
  • Reducing traffic short-cutting through residential neighbourhoods
  • Reducing and eliminating bottlenecks
  • Enabling rapid response to traffic incidents

Transportation System Management measures currently include:

  • Traffic control tools such as signs, signals, pavement markings and regulations
  • Technologically advanced software and hardware
  • Signal timing, including special phasing for peak hours, weather conditions, special events and construction
  • Progression and synchronization between signals
  • Real time traffic control monitoring and camera surveillance
  • Special treatment for transit and emergency vehicles (fire trucks)
  • Incident management
  • Maintenance of existing system

Traffic Control Centre and Traffic map

The Traffic Control Centre operates from 6 am until 7 pm Monday to Friday with an on-call team available 24 hours day, 7 days a week. Monitoring is extended into evening and weekend periods when incidents or special events in the City causing major disruptions to normal traffic patterns occur.

Traffic control operators continuously monitor the Traffic Control System. Operators are immediately able to adjust the traffic signal timing and phasing for a number of intersections. Problems detected by the system or reported by the public are either directly resolved by operators or immediately dispatched to maintenance crews. Reports are relayed to the media in order to inform the public of traffic conditions.

Traffic operators continuously monitor video images from traffic monitoring cameras. These cameras are located at the most critical intersections in the City of Ottawa. Currently, 70 intersections are equipped with traffic cameras with additional cameras installed on a continuous basis.

The operators can pan, tilt and zoom the traffic cameras from the Traffic Control Centre. They observe traffic conditions for all approach directions, adjacent intersections and corridors. Intersections are constantly monitored and signal timing is continually adjusted to alleviate congestion and reduce delays.

View the City’s Interactive Traffic Map

Incident management

Traffic volumes in the City of Ottawa have increased continually over the last 10 years. Many intersections are no longer able to handle the traffic demand and regularly become congested during peak periods.

Due to the pressure on the road network, any incident – such as lane or roadway closures due to accidents, fires, construction, special events that affects roadway capacity – can quickly lead to major congestion and extensive delays.

To manage such incidents and to reduce the impacts of incidents on safety and congestion of the traveling public, traffic incident management is the process of coordinating the resources of a number of different partner agencies to detect, respond to, and clear traffic incidents as quickly as possible while protecting the safety of on-scene responders and the traveling public.

Any single large incident may have dozens of agencies responding to specific needs. The main goals of the traffic incident management are to:

  • Protect both on-scene responders and the traveling public
  • Reduce delays and associated impacts on travellers
  • Reduce the possibility of secondary incidents
  • Ensure that response resources tied up at incidents are put back into service quickly

The role of City in a traffic incident management is to:

  • Work closely and effectively deal with major incidents with partner agencies including Ottawa Police, OC Transpo, STO, Ontario Provincial Police, Ministry of Transportation of Ontario, City of Gatineau, Sureté du Québec, and the Ministry of Transportation of Québec
  • Perform extensive monitoring of traffic with the traffic cameras and staff in the field.
  • Create and deploy special response plans and real-time traffic management strategies including signal timing modifications, police assistance, flexible lane designations controlled through variable message signs (VMS), installation of detour routes
  • Communicate to the public the impacts to the road network of the incident via the web, media, Variable Message Signs.

Emergency detour routes (EDR)

What are Emergency Detour Routes?

Emergency Detour Routes (EDR) are permanent detours marked by orange signs that help guide residents throughout the City of Ottawa in the event that Highways 417 and 416 and Ottawa Road 174 need to be shut down due to an incident. 

EDRs will lead motorists through Ottawa arterial roadways in an efficient way and are designed to:

  • keep traffic moving;
  • aid drivers who are unfamiliar with Ottawa roads
  • prevent heavy trucks from using inappropriate streets

This will reduce the impact on streets not intended to handle heavier loads or traffic volumes.

Most interchanges along Highway 417 and Ottawa Road 174 have an eastbound and westbound detour.

Each Highway 416 interchange has a northbound and southbound EDR option.

Ottawa’s EDRs were designed by the Ministry of Transportation (MTO), Ontario Provincial Police, the City of Ottawa Public Works Department, and Ottawa Police Service, in consultation with the Traffic Incident Management Group – a working group consisting of representatives from traffic operations and emergency services across the National Capital Region.

Installation of the EDR signs will be completed by June 2011. All signs were provided by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and are installed and maintained by the City of Ottawa.

How an EDR works

This sign will be visible on the highway near the interchange. 

These signs are used to guide motorists along the designated route and back onto the highway.

The Ontario Provincial Police (for Highways 416 and 417) and Ottawa Police Services (for Ottawa Regional Road 174) are the only authorities that can close a highway. The Ministry of Transportation and the City of Ottawa’s Public Works Department manage the traffic displaced by the closures and allow emergency services to focus on the incident.

The Emergency Detour Routes are activated under the authority of the OPP and Ottawa Police. The Traffic Incident Management Group (TIMG) will provide ongoing public notification on the location and the impact of the incident and anticipated duration of any closure. The TIMG is made up of representatives from the City of Ottawa Public Works Department, MTO, Quebec Ministry of Transportation, the Ottawa Police Service, Gatineau Police Service, RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police and Sûreté du Québec as well as OC Transpo, Fire and Paramedic Services from Ottawa and Gatineau.

Frequently asked questions

  1. Why do we need Emergency Detour Routes (EDRs)?
    To provide motorists with a pre-determined route when Highways 416 and 417 and Ottawa Regional Road 174 are closed. EDRs help keep traffic moving, aid drivers who are unfamiliar with local roads, and prevent heavy trucks from using inappropriate streets.
  2. When are emergency highway closures necessary?
    These unscheduled closures are required when a highway is physically impassable, such as a motor vehicle incident, or when emergency work cannot be performed in traffic.
  3. How long will a road closure (EDR) be in place?
    Most incidents normally require approximately two to three hours to clear however the duration of a highway closure will vary depending on the extent and nature of the incident.
  4. Who decides when the highway should be closed or opened?
    The police have the authority to close highways. An officer at the incident will determine when to reopen the highway and deactivate the Emergency Detour Route (EDR).
  5. I have a large truck carrying an oversized or overweight load. Can I use the Emergency Detour Route (EDR)?
    No. Oversized or overweight loads travel under permit-defined routes and are not permitted on any other route. The police will direct you to park in a safe location on the highway until it reopens.
  6. I live in an area that the Emergency Detour Route (EDR) goes through. How will I be affected?
    While the Emergency Detour Route (EDR) is activated there will be an increase in traffic on the designated route. This might also include more trucks. Local police or municipal staff might be present to direct traffic at key intersections and monitor the use of the Emergency Detour Route (EDR).
  7. How are the Emergency Detour Routes (EDRs) selected?
    Emergency Detour Routes (EDRs) are developed by the municipality with the MTO and the police. They are based on several factors including travel time and a route's ability to efficiently accommodate increased traffic volumes.

Adopted from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

Contact Information

For additional information or questions about Emergency Detour Routes please contact the Traffic team at or 3-1-1.