Monday, March 27, 2023
HomePolitics newsWest-end residents raising concerns about disruptive LRT construction

West-end residents raising concerns about disruptive LRT construction

“Ever since the construction started, we haven’t been able to use our backyard for three years … Our windows haven’t been open for at least two and a half years…”

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Construction on the LRT western extension is causing headaches for neighbours.

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Residents of west-end neighbourhoods close to the future Lincoln Fields, Queensview and Iris stations are complaining that construction work in the area has been loud, dirty and disruptive and is blocking streets and trails with inadequate replacements or detours offered up.

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The area happens to be the site of two different under-construction LRT tunnels: the Connaught tunnel that will connect Lincoln Fields station to Queensview station, located near the IKEA store; and the Parkway/Byron tunnel that will link Dominion station to north of Lincoln Fields station.

A highway interchange near Queensview is also under construction to allow for the new station.

“I consider myself tolerant,” Lukas Hlavacka said while taking his baby on a daily stroll around Connaught Park, where tunnel construction is occurring. “But it’s definitely bothersome when they have bright construction lights that are shining into our windows, so we have to put on shades blocking.”

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Hlavacka, 35, moved into the Queensway Terrace North neighbourhood with his family two years ago. He says he enjoys biking around the area in the summer, but the bikes can get “muddy and dirty” when taking a detour across the construction site at Connaught.

“We are looking forward to not having to walk on the streets. This section with the construction can feel quite dangerous.”

A pedestrian connection between Queensway Terrace North and Whitehaven was demolished due to the construction, “with a very inadequate plan for replacing it, forcing hundreds of students to detour up to Carling Avenue,” Lija Bickis, co-chair with the safe streets and active transportation committee of the Queensway Terrace North community association, said in a media release in October.

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A new bridge for the area is anticipated to open to pedestrians and cyclists in the spring of 2023, the City of Ottawa says.

The city says work on the Connaught tunnel is 40 per cent complete, with rail and overhead catenary systems installation to begin immediately after the tunnel is completed. Work on the Parkway/Byron tunnel is 50 per cent done.

The LRT western extension will add 11 new stations to the existing Confederation Line. It will stretch from Westboro to Moodie Drive, with a spur extending to the Pinecrest station at the main campus of Algonquin College. The extension was originally supposed to open in 2025, but construction is behind schedule, with the line now expected to be delivered to the city in late 2026.

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Lorraine Renaud is in her sixties and has lived in a Parkway Drive bungalow with her husband for decades. But LRT construction in the area has disrupted their sleep, shaken their house and prevented them from using their backyard since it started, she says.

“Ever since the construction started, we haven’t been able to use our backyard for three years, Renaud says. “Our windows haven’t been open for at least two and a half years (because of) the noises and the smoke and the smells.”

Dylan Goudie, 26, a public servant who has lived in the Iris–Queensway Terrance South neighbourhood for almost four years, says construction fences are blocking access to some small forest paths.

“It’s as if the fences are being used more as bubble wrap for us, rather than something necessary for bounding off construction … because they put fences in parallel with the guard rails,” says Goudie who used to take daily walks for grocery shopping via Pinecrest Creek pathway, which has been sectioned off due to the construction.

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Ongoing construction projects in the west end are paving the way for future development, including improved transit and pedestrian access to important amenities nearby, the city says.

For example, work around the Lincoln Fields station will contribute to the redevelopment of the former Lincoln Fields Mall that was demolished three years ago, in addition to being home to a new light rail stop. 

The city is also undertaking a study to guide redevelopment centred around the future Lincoln Fields LRT station, says Royce Fu, a policy planning manager with the city.

“The plan (study) seeks to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety and access to the O-Train station; increase the number of housing units while preserving existing rental housing; gradually transform a section of Richmond Road into a mixed-use main street; require parks as part of major new private developments; provide community amenities on underutilized City-owned lands; and open discussions with the NCC about how to better connect residents with the Pinecrest Creek greenspace,” Fu wrote in an email.

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Coun. Theresa Kavanagh, whose Bay ward includes some of the impacted neighbourhoods, says she’s meeting regularly with the LRT team to address construction issues.

“I meet weekly, if not more, with the Stage 2 LRT team, and we go through the concerns of the construction and how it affects the residents and then try to find ways to minimize the effects as much as possible,” Kavanagh says. “And we’re fairly successful. But it is a big project. It’s big, it’s noisy, it’s messy. So there are negative effects.

“(We’ve done) things like we stopped trucks from going through the neighbourhood. We banned them from, you know, going on streets to make sure you’re not disturbing the community.”

While the construction in the west end is closer to residential neighbourhoods than some other projects on the LRT extension, “you can actually see progress, you can see, kind of, the size and scale of the investment that’s coming our way,” says College ward Coun. Laine Johnson, whose ward includes Iris –Queensway Terrance South.

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In the long term, the extension will invite people who can create foot traffic and allow for greater density around LRT stations, she says.

Johnson says the major challenge of public engagement is that “the LRT was planned after our neighbourhoods were built … (which creates) new circumstances for people that they hadn’t originally imagined when they moved into these neighbourhoods.”

Although the city receives feedback regularly, Johnson says she still welcomes residents to bring her insights to create better connectivity between wards that are also affected by the work sites.

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