A bid to expedite the widening of a traffic-clogged section of Bank Street, through Findlay Creek, has been downgraded to an accelerated overhaul of a bottlenecked intersection that serves as a gateway to the south Ottawa suburb.
A front-end agreement now at the technical discussion stage between the City of Ottawa and four developers would see the builders pay for the approximately $7-million redesign and construction of the crossroads at Bank Street and Leitrim Road, potentially in 2019. That is if the deal is given the green light by the city’s planning committee and council this spring.
“This wasn’t anywhere in the near future and now we’ve moved it up, and I think it will help alleviate the traffic,” said Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Michael Qaqish.
He has been helping broker the deal, which he said has been verbally reached.
“I live it. I drive it. I don’t have a chopper.”
- Osgoode Coun. George Darouze
“It’s not the widening of Bank Street, but it’s a big boost.”
That intersection is not tapped for change until 2025 as outlined in the city’s transportation master plan, in which other projects have faced delays, creating a domino effect.
“The benefit is immediate and the cost to us is really paying the carry for a number of years until payback,” said Pierre Dufresne, vice-president of land development at Tartan, who is working with Urbandale, Regional Group and Claridge reps on the agreement.
“We see how the problem has evolved,” he said of the traffic constraints in Findlay Creek, where his company was the first to put shovels in the ground in 2002.
Better traffic flow would make it easier for developers to promote the community to homebuyers, he said.
“We’re all interested in assisting to fix it.”
Osgoode Coun. George Darouze, whose ward includes an eastern section of Findlay Creek, has been working on the agreement with Qaqish.
“It’s a win-win situation for everyone. It’s going to expedite their (the developers’) sales also,” said Darouze. “When people are going to come buy a home, they’re not going to be stuck half an hour to come to their home.”
Initial talks that began last fall floated the idea of developers paying for sections of Bank Street to be widened to better accommodate the crush of traffic, particularly during the afternoon commute. The leg between Leitrim Road and Findlay Creek Drive alone would have cost about $22 million.
“It would have been very difficult - if not impossible - for us to be able to finance that,” said Durfresne, which is why the project now targets the intersection where Leitrim Road is misaligned on either side of Bank Street.
“The reason we’ve taken the intersection modification out of that project is that it creates the most bang for the buck in terms of providing relief to the traffic congestion,” he said.
As part of the agreement, the developers would also pay for and do an engineering design of the Bank Street widening from Leitrim Road past Blais Road on down to the urban boundary at the southern edge of Findlay Creek. The $7-million intersection project includes that blueprint.
That would save the city a year’s work and potentially bump up the widening to 2023 instead of 2025.
“The city is confident it can carry on the project after we’re finished the intersection,” said Dufresne.
While there was a glimmer of hope that an agreement would target the widening, Meagan Côté, president of the Findlay Creek Community Association, is optimistic the intersection rejig will help since afternoon southbound commuter traffic is often backed up from there to Conroy Road to the north, as well as to Leitrim and Albion roads to the west.
Darouze said he’s often caught in the snarl as he travels from downtown back to his ward.
“I live it. I drive it,” he said. “I don’t have a chopper.”
Côté is also hoping the intersection deal could spur city council to reprioritize the widening, because “2025 is unacceptable. That’s absolutely insane.”
“I don’t want to risk it being pushed back again. Who knows what can happen in eight years?” she said. “We need city council to recognize that we are a growing community and we’re growing quite quickly.”
Findlay Creek residents have long been critical that city infrastructure is not keeping pace with growth. Thousands more homes are planned within the next decade.
“We haven’t been keeping up with the growth. There hasn’t been enough and it’s been challenging keeping up with the infrastructure,” Qaqish said. “We have to find innovative ways to get around that.”
Tartan and Tamarack plan to put in more than 1,000 units southwest of Bank and Leitrim.
The Regional Group has two subdivisions in the works, one of them for about 840 units in the southern part of Findlay Creek, an eight- or nine-year project expected to start up in 2018. And Urbandale is planning a 512-home subdivision, also off Bank Street.
Findlay Creek is currently home to about 3,000 housing units. The full build-out would put it at approximately 8,000 units.
That means thousands more vehicles. As well, motorists use that Bank Street stretch to get to and from Riverside South, and Greely, Metcalfe, Edwards and Vernon.
“We’re one of the fastest-growing communities in all of the Ottawa-Gatineau region. And we need to be taken seriously for that,” Côté said, noting that Findlay Creek is only currently serviced by one bus route, though a second is planned for the end of this year.
“It’s going to come to a head, so we prefer to start dealing with these problems before they’re way past gone.”
The front-end agreement would require the city to pay back developers the $7 million, which potentially could come from development charges collected from the building industry.
“So it would still be no real cost to the city,” said Dufresne.
The deal is expected to go before the city’s planning committee in May.
If given the go-ahead, it would then need city council’s stamp of approval.