City committee says it’s time to reopen Wellington Street to vehicles

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Ottawa’s Transportation Committee has given the green light to a plan to reopen several blocks of Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill, which has been closed to motor vehicles since the Freedom Convoy protests ended in -last winter.

Last February, after driving the convoy of protesters and their big trucks out of the city center, the City Council approved a motion to temporarily close Wellington Street between Bank and Elgin streets until the end of 2022.

Since then, concrete barriers have kept most cars and trucks out.

Pedestrians and cyclists could use the street, but unlike pedestrianized Sparks Street a block to the south, it was mostly quiet and few major events occurred during the lockdown.

On Thursday, after hearing from about a dozen citizens – many of whom spoke about how the city was now blessed with a rare chance to completely rethink Wellington – the Transport Committee voted unanimously to wait until the March 1 to take down the barricades at the earliest.

“We have an opportunity to better serve families with safe pedestrian space,” said Derrick Simpson, chairman of the Centertown Community Association’s own Transportation Committee.

Simpson told committee members that short-term improvements in Wellington should include amenities such as more greenery, food stalls and public art.

“The convoy took something from us. But this is an opportunity to turn the dark time into something beautiful for our city.”

A man carries a Canadian flag on Wellington Street during last winter’s Convoy protests. Several blocks of Wellington in front of Parliament Hill remained closed to most vehicles after protesters were cleared in February 2022. (The Canadian Press)

“Once in a Generation Opportunity”

The motion called on city staff to regularly update the offices of Mayor Mark Sutcliffe and Somerset Coun. Ariel Troster on ways to beautify and live the street.

Note that Wellington may close again in the summer for special events and community programs, or for the “safety and well-being” of Ottawans. It also included a directive for city officials to consult with the federal government about their plans for a revised and expanded parliamentary district.

The Transportation Committee also agreed to Troster’s amendment to add a temporarily protected bike lane.

“I think we can all agree that the status quo — the empty, ugly barricaded road — is not an option,” said Senator Andrew Cardozo, a longtime Ottawa resident whose offices are on the closed stretch.

Cardozo told the committee they had a “once in a generation” opportunity to revitalize and breathe new life into Wellington Street, but feared allowing vehicles back on the road, even temporarily, could disrupt things.

“I dare you to go with him [people-focused] Choice,” he said. “And I encourage you to act quickly and get it moving and do it consistently.”

Senator says opening Wellington Street to pedestrians is a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’

Senator Andrew Cardozo said Wellington Street, which he described as “the most important street in our country”, should be updated with an “inspirational and welcoming vision”.

‘Barbecue’ by the federal government

The year-long shutdown caused headaches for nearby businesses, slowing deliveries and making some loading zones inaccessible, Sparks Street BIA chief Kevin McHale said.

It also shunts trucks to Elgin Street and other streets downtown that were not designed for that purpose, McHale told the committee.

“These problems are getting worse as more workers return to the inner city,” he said.

With the return of officers – many of whom normally drive down Wellington – already underway, Thursday’s unanimous vote will hopefully kick off talks with the federal government about the road’s future, Beacon Hill-Cyrville said. Coun. Tim Tierney, Chairman of the Transport Committee.

“Let’s face it, it’s not exactly a pretty looking road at this point,” Tierney said just before the vote.

“I think that’s what we all agree on [is that] Something must happen to this street. And what has been missing until now are our partners from the federal government. They were crickets.”

counting Tierney hopes the reopening of Wellington Street will “stimulate” talks with the government

Transportation Committee Chair Tim Tierney said after Thursday’s meeting that “a discussion has begun with the federal government about the future of Wellington Street.”

The federal government wants Wellington to remain closed to traffic, and Liberal members on a House of Commons committee are calling for land transfer talks with the city to be incorporated into the Parliamentary District.

In a statement to the CBC, Ottawa Center MP Yasir Naqvi said he recognized that Wellington is an “ideal nobody’s place” right now, but the immediate focus should be on filling it with pop-food vendors. up and other amenities to revive.

“The [committee] already recommended closing the road to vehicular traffic to secure the area and clarify jurisdictional boundaries,” he wrote.

“Any temporary reopening would seriously compromise that goal and have a negative impact on the security of the entire Parliamentary District.”

Street hockey players battle for the ball in a tournament held on Wellington Street last summer, one of the few organized events that have enlivened the street since it was closed to vehicles. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

The city center divided

As for Troster, she said after the meeting that residents in her community are divided on what to do with Wellington, and her email inbox is full of opinions from both sides.

Although she ultimately wanted a pedestrian zone, the possibility of a cycle path and the promise that the space would be animated in the summer convinced her to support the proposal.

“I think it will really bring people together to dream about the possibilities for Wellington,” she said. “Because you have to see it to believe it.”

The motion is scheduled to go to the City Council on February 8th. If approved, it will be some time before barricades are removed, street lights are reinstalled and some of the signs are updated, Tierney said.

counting Troster says she is focused on the future pedestrianization of Wellington Street

counting Ariel Troster, whose amendment to add a temporary protective bike lane to Wellington Street was approved Thursday, said the question of whether to reopen the street was divided in her community.


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