On June 12, more than 400 people came together at the Interprovincial Crossings open house at the Shenkman Arts Centre to say with a united voice, "No bridge!" I would like to thank each and every person for coming out to be heard.
At the rally, I added my voice to theirs, clarifying the many negative impacts a new bridge would have on the residents of Orléans, no matter where it's built.
My position is shared by Mayor Jim Watson, who has stated in the media that an interprovincial bridge is not a priority for east end residents.
“At the end of the day if we have an extra half billion plus dollars, I want to see those dollars go into transit to encourage people to get into light rail, to get into a bus, and to not simply get into a car and go from one province to another and clog up the 417 even further in the east end”
I couldn't agree more and welcome Mayor Watson's support in this regard.
I have and will continue to oppose a bridge in the Greenbelt, nor will I advocate for option 5 which will create another Split on Hwy 417. Any bridge will increase the commute times to the downtown and westerly for Orléans residents.
The provincial government is currently investing $220 million to fix the Split and widen the eastern portion of the Queensway. I successfully secured that funding during my last term in office to address the existing traffic concerns, not to accommodate bridge traffic.
A bridge, whether it's built at Kettle Island or in Orléans, will add thousands of cars commuting from Gatineau and more than 2,200 trucks a day to the Split and Hwy. 174. This will completely overwhelm the extra lane being added.
The latest Transportation Report contained in the study claims that the planned work will accommodate this increased traffic. This is misleading. It is a mistake to presume that the added capacity will accommodate the incoming bridge traffic. The numbers simply do not add up.
These concerns are critically compounded by the federal government’s decision to move 10,000 DND jobs west to Kanata. Thousands more residents will soon have to commute west from Orléans, adding even more cars to the Split and Hwy. 417. This factor must be taken into consideration.
For the first time ever in this ongoing debate, the community groups are united in their opposition to a new bridge. I support them 100 percent. It's a shame other local politicians have not followed suit and instead push for a bridge at Kettle Island. This option will have a devastating impact on the Queensway and wipe out the improvements currently being made, to the detriment of thousands of commuters in Orléans.
Let’s consider the needs of east-end residents whose priority is not getting to Gatineau, but getting to their jobs downtown and points further west.
The answer to these needs is light rail. The LRT must be extended from Blair Road to Trim during the first phase of the LRT project.
LRT is what our residents want and it's what they deserve. After being shortchanged during the Infrastructure Stimulus program in 2009 - when we received 3.47% of the total funding allocated to Ottawa, despite having 13% of the population – it is time to ask the federal government to re-invest in Orléans and fund Light Rail to Trim.
The message is now loud and clear -- No Bridge. Light Rail to Trim.