Downtown Ottawa truck tunnel

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Study Documents and Report to Transportation Committee

The executive summary, main body and the appendices to the feasibility study are provided below. Contact person: 

Katarina Cvetkovic
Senior Project Manager
Transportation Planning Branch
Planning, Real Estate and Economic Development 
City of Ottawa, 110 Laurier Avenue West, 4th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1J1
613-580-2424 ext. 22842, fax: 613-580-2578

Report to Transportation Committee [ PDF 1.431 MB ]

Downtown Ottawa (Truck) Tunnel Feasibility Study [ PDF 7.998 MB ]

Appendix A1 [ PDF 1.616 MB ]

Appendix A2 [ PDF 4.648 MB ]

Appendix A3 [ PDF 7.734 MB ]

Appendix B [ PDF 4.467 MB ]

Appendix C [ PDF 4.509 MB ]

Appendix D [ PDF 739 KB ]

Appendix E [ PDF 594 KB ]

Appendix F [ PDF 8.326 MB ]

Appendix G [ PDF 8.363 MB ]

Appendix H [ PDF 1.666 MB ]

Appendix I [ PDF 4.197 MB ]

Frequently Asked Questions

Why was a Downtown Ottawa Truck Tunnel Feasibility Study done?
Following the cancellation of the Interprovincial Crossing Study in 2013, the City with funding from the Province of Ontario, commenced the Downtown Ottawa Truck Tunnel Feasibility Study to determine if a tunnel under the downtown core, to service interprovincial truck traffic, was technically feasible.

How much did the Downtown Ottawa Truck Tunnel Feasibility Study cost?
The total cost of the feasibility study is $750,000.

Who paid for the Downtown Ottawa Truck Tunnel Feasibility Study?
The cost of the feasibility study was cost-shared with the Province of Ontario (MTO) and the City. The cost to the City was $375,000 or 50 per cent of the total costs.

Did public consultation take place?
No, as this was a technical study. The public will have a chance to review the study findings prior to the September 7, 2016 Transportation Committee meeting.

Is it technically feasible to construct a downtown Ottawa truck tunnel?
Yes. The study found that it is technically feasible to construct a tunnel under the downtown linking the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge to Highway 417.

What is the preferred alignment?
What is being called the "most feasible alternative" is a 3.4-km long tunnel that starts on King Edward Avenue just south of the Lester B. Pearson Building, heads southeast under Lowertown and Sandy Hill, crosses the Rideau River near Mann Avenue and arrives at ground level just north of the RCMP buildings to connect with a new roundabout at the Vanier Parkway and Coventry Road intersection, which links up with the nearby interchange at Highway 417.

Why are the shortest alignments not recommended?
The shortest two routes from Macdonald-Cartier Bridge to the Nicholas Hwy 417 Interchange pose significant challenges that will be expensive to mitigate. Proximity to the City's Confederation Line and the Combined Sewage Storage Tunnel will cause design and construction challenges and in turn create long-term risks to the City.

Will there be an Environmental Assessment?
Further discussion with our provincial and federal counterparts is required to determine next steps. Before implementation, an Environmental Assessment study will be undertaken, complete with public consultation.

Is this study wasted if an environmental assessment does not quickly follow?
No. The information in this study includes analysis of the geography of the area and traffic patterns, which will be valuable for many years. Unless land use and growth plans change dramatically, or new underground infrastructures are introduced that are not already planned, much of the information from this feasibility study will serve as input to the future EA study.

How much would the tunnel cost?
The order of magnitude cost is $1.7 billion to $2 billion (2015 dollars).

Who would pay for the tunnel?
The City will be approaching our federal and provincial counterparts to start a dialogue on next steps.

Who would be responsible for the tunnel?
The feasibility study did look at other tunnels and noted that generally municipalities/cities are not responsible for the operations of interprovincial/interstate tunnel traffic. Further discussion with our provincial and federal counterparts would be required.

Is a tunnel affordable?
This project is not within the City's Affordability Plan. That means this project is not already accounted for in the spending plan for new infrastructure to 2031, set out in the 2013 Transportation Master Plan approved by City Council.

Would cars be allowed to use the tunnel?
Yes. The feasibility study identified a mixed-use tunnel of four lanes with two lanes each in twin tunnels. A tunnel for just truck traffic would not justify the investment.

What is the estimated number of trucks that would be diverted to a tunnel?
An estimated 1,700 trucks would potentially use the tunnel each week day.

Would trucks carrying dangerous goods be allowed to use the tunnel?
Based on a review of other tunnels it is recommended that dangerous goods not be transported in the tunnel. Managing dangerous goods events/accidents on surface streets (versus in a tunnel), while potentially disruptive to local traffic, residents and businesses, is substantially easier as access is less restricted, existing training of emergency service personnel is in place and existing resources can be used.

Would a tunnel remove all truck traffic from King Edward Avenue and other Lowertown and Sandy Hill streets?
No. Even with the option of a tunnel, truck traffic would not be completely removed from Lowertown and Sandy Hill streets. Local truck traffic would still need access to downtown streets in order to make their necessary deliveries. A previous study, which this feasibility study concurs with, found that 65 per cent of the truck traffic in the King Edward to Nicholas Street corridor is through traffic between the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge and Highway 417. This traffic could be attracted to a tunnel. The remaining 35 per cent of truck traffic is local, making stops in the downtown area and this would continue.

If truck traffic is removed from surface streets, would King Edward Avenue be reconfigured to a complete street?
Prior to implementing any change to King Edward Avenue, the City would need to have a further look at the corridor, including vehicular traffic, transit, and cycling and pedestrian requirements, to determine how best to accommodate a complete street.

Why not just limit or remove truck traffic from King Edward Avenue?
In order to remove interprovincial truck traffic from King Edward Avenue, the federal government would first need to remove or restrict truck traffic on the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge. Removing or limiting truck traffic from King Edward Avenue would have a negative effect on other areas west of downtown.

Interprovincial Crossing FAQs

Why was the Interprovincial Crossing Study cancelled?
The Province of Ontario did not support the preferred alignment identified through the Environmental Assessment and therefore pulled out of the National Capital Commission (NCC)-led study. Without Provincial funding, the study ended before it was completed.

Did the City provide any funds to the Interprovincial Crossing Study?
No. The funding partners for the Interprovincial Crossing Study were the NCC and the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The Cities of Ottawa and Gatineau were stakeholders and provided input to the study.

Did the City support the preferred alignment identified in the Interprovincial Crossing Study?
The Environmental Study was cancelled prior to the City making a formal response. At the June 5, 2013 Transportation Committee meeting, a motion was passed asking that the NCC and its consultant return to Transportation Committee at the study's conclusion (then anticipated in the fall of 2013), and prior to the detailed design, to provide comments on mitigation plans.

A number of City questions and concerns were still outstanding when the study was cancelled, including the proposed truck/traffic route from a new bridge to Highway 417.

Overview of Downtown Ottawa Truck tunnel

Feasibility Study

Updated August 17, 2016

The City of Ottawa, working with the Government of Ontario, commissioned a feasibility study to examine the potential for the construction of a tunnel for trucks in downtown Ottawa linking the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge and Nicholas Street/Highway 417.

This feasibility study has been completed, concluding that a tunnel for mixed traffic is technically possible.

Trucks travelling between Ottawa and Gatineau via the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge are a longstanding concern for downtown communities due to the large number of heavy vehicles on King Edward Avenue, Rideau Street and other streets in the core.

When the NCC-led study to examine new bridge options east of downtown between Ontario and Quebec was terminated before the study concluded, the impact of that heavy truck traffic on the aesthetics and liveability of our downtown were left unresolved.

The City of Ottawa and Province of Ontario decided to look at the technical feasibility of a downtown tunnel for trucks, as a means to reduce on-street truck traffic. The $750,000 feasibility study, funded equally by the City and the Government of Ontario, has concluded.

The study finds that the preferred alignment would be between the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge and Highway 417 at Vanier and Riverside via a cross-town route under Lowertown and Sandy Hill. The 3.4-kilometre tunnel would be four lanes wide, with two lanes in each direction, and would be used by both cars and trucks.

Six short-listed routes were examined and evaluated. Issues considered included: ease of connection to Highway 417, interference with buildings and public infrastructure, geotechnical challenges and cost.

The forecasted truck traffic demand that would use a tunnel is too small to justify an investment in a truck-only tunnel. Thirty-five per cent of the truck traffic through this corridor would not use a tunnel, as these trucks are making local on-street deliveries or pick-ups.

If a tunnel were to be built, it would be available for mixed-traffic use and would divert between 20,000 and 25,000 cars and trucks per day from downtown surface streets.

This study recommends that trucks transporting dangerous goods not be permitted in the tunnel due to safety concerns. A review of 24 comparison tunnels found that, in almost all cases, dangerous goods were prohibited within tunnels.

The cost estimate for the construction of a tunnel is between $1.7 billion and $2 billion (in 2015 dollars). This is an order of magnitude cost. Refinements to the cost would be undertaken as the project advances through the phases of environmental assessment, design and implementation.

This was a technical feasibility study and therefore public consultation was not undertaken. However, the City is releasing the study well in advance of its consideration at Transportation Committee to give residents more time to read the report.

The City does not have this tunnel project in its affordable transportation network plan, as outlined in the 2013 Transportation Master Plan.

A copy of the feasibility study, including an executive summary, is available for review. The feasibility study and a staff report will be presented to Transportation Committee on September 7, 2016.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation is a funding partner and has participated in this Feasibility Study.

Contact person:
Katarina Cvetkovic, Senior Project Manager
Transportation Planning Branch
Planning, Real Estate and Economic Development 
City of Ottawa, 110 Laurier Avenue West, 4th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1J1
613-580-2424 ext. 22842, fax: 613-580-2578