Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Sutcliffe rails against federal government’s Canada Day traffic plans

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Heritage Canada officials asking O-Line users to use Lyon Station, a 15-20 minute walk from LeBreton Flats.

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Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe is seeing red about how the federal government is choosing to control pedestrian and train traffic for Canada Day celebrations at LeBreton Flats on July 1.

On Wednesday, Heritage Canada officials detailed plans that included limiting pedestrian access to Booth Street, which connects Pimisi Station on OC Transpo’s O-Line to LeBreton Flats.

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It’s typically a three- to five-minute walk, but access on Canada Day will be restricted to local residents and those with reduced mobility.

Instead, Canada Day planning officials are asking O-Line riders to use the Lyon Station stop to the east. It’s a 15- to 20-minute walk from that station to LeBreton Flats.

It sets up a potential repeat of the headaches of last Canada Day, when riders planning on attending the evening fireworks display were not allowed to get off at Pimisi Station.

“It doesn’t make intuitive sense to have a transit station near LeBreton and an event at LeBreton and not use it,” Sutcliffe said in a telephone interview with Postmedia on Thursday.

Sutcliffe doesn’t typically use social media to express his opinions, but he took to X — formerly Twitter — late Wednesday to express his frustration with Heritage Canada.

“I’m disappointed with the federal government’s plans for traffic flow,” he wrote. “Despite the efforts of city officials to propose alternatives, the government’s security officials have decided once again this year to discourage public transit users from exiting at Pimisi Station on July 1.

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“I want to be abundantly clear: this is not an issue of the capacity of the station, but the result of passengers not being allowed to use the entire Booth Street Bridge when they exit.”

Heritage Canada officials recognize it’s not an ideal solution, but say the decisions are not theirs alone, but rather are made it consultation with all the partners involved, including the city’s emergency teams, the Ottawa Police Service, the RCMP and OC Transpo.

They say it’s vital to keep open an available path for emergency vehicles to access Booth Street while large crowds are coming and going from the fireworks display. Pedestrian entry and exit to LeBreton Flats for Canada Day is on the east side of the corner at Booth Street and the Kichi Zibi Mikan parkway.

“We share the frustration around having easy access to the Pimisi LRT station (on) Canada Day, knowing that it is open,” said Ariane Joazard-Bélizaire, senior communication advisor and press secretary to Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge. “The security of attendees is our top priority and the priority of all partners, including the City of Ottawa, who approved the plans put in place. We are working on alternative solutions for next year and the future.”

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Sutcliffe acknowledges that there are plenty of moving parts for major events, that security must be a priority and that all the puzzle pieces must fit together properly.

Ultimately, though, he says it’s Heritage Canada’s event and they have the final decision-making power.

“I was hoping for a solution,” Sutcliffe said in the interview. “Yes, the decision is made by a group of people, but Heritage Canada was not willing to change the (original) plan.”

Part of Sutcliffe’s rationale in going public with his disappointment is to emphasize that the issue isn’t about problems with OC Transpo or that Pimisi Station isn’t capable of handling the influx of people.

The mayor says the success of large crowds of pedestrians coming in and out of Pimisi on Booth Street, en route to Bluesfest, is an indication that there isn’t an issue.

“(Last year), a lot of people misinterpreted it as a case of Pimisi not being able to handle traffic, but that’s absolutely not the case,” he said.

“The station can handle the traffic. We’ve seen it at Bluesfest. If the Senators move to LeBreton Flats, (Pimisi) will be able to handle the traffic.”

After Canada Day festivities wrap up, Bluesfest takes over at LeBreton Flats from July 4 to 14.

kwarren@postmedia.com

X: Citizenkwarren

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