All about the Bank Street Bridge

Councillor, Capital Ward, Shawn Menard

The Bank Street Bridge is an iconic structure for Capital Ward and for the city. It serves as an important link between the communities on either side of the Rideau Canal. Bank Street is home to residential buildings, shops, restaurants, offices, community buildings and Lansdowne Park. It is a thriving, livable street.

It has also long been a source of concern for local residents. Vehicles often speed on the bridge, there is no safe space for bicyclists and the sidewalks can be too narrow for pedestrians and those in wheelchairs.

Our office wants to make the bridge as safe as possible for all road users, understanding that there are unique demands for this stretch of Bank – it’s a bus and truck route and it is part of the transportation plan for Lansdowne Park. We talked about this extensively during the last election.

Residents in the area would have received a construction notice for the bridge this summer. The plan was to repair the top of the bridge (repave the road and repair the sidewalk) and the underside (some concrete is falling). There is still a plan to proceed with the latter repairs this summer but after significant public feedback, we worked with city staff to discuss what can be done to the top of the bridge before construction took place. The pylons that our office purchased (at a much lower cost than renting them) will remain on the bridge for the near future to enhance safety and distancing.

Working with city staff, we will be consulting on a design that should better satisfy all the uses of the bridge while also improving safety for all road users. We can now re-imagine the layout of the bridge and implement a new design that will better serve all residents.

Current Design
The bridge now has with four vehicle lanes, two in each direction. The curb lanes measure 3.65m and the centre lanes measure 3.0m. Bicyclists share the curb lane with cars, trucks, buses and transport trucks. The sidewalk on each side of the bridge measures 2.0m.

Safety Concerns
The current design of the bridge provides little safety for cyclists. The danger is exacerbated by the pitch of the bridge, limiting a driver’s ability to see cyclists on the other side. Drivers also have a tendency to speed.

For safety reasons, many cyclists are forced onto the sidewalk, fostering conflict with pedestrians.

The narrow width of the sidewalks can also pose issues for people walking, using wheelchairs or mobility aids, pushing strollers or walking with small children in hand. Conflict can arise when people walking in opposite directions need to pass each other. This issue is more severe in winter, when snow makes the sidewalk even narrower.

These issues are nothing new. Local communities have been seeking bridge improvements for years. In the municipal election, I ran on improving transportation safety in the ward and along Bank Street, including on the bridge.

 

Proposed re-design of the Bank Street Bridge, with three car lanes (two northbound, one southbound) and multi-use paths on each side of the bridge, to be shared by cyclists and walkers.

Re-Designing the Bridge
With construction planned for the bridge, our office saw this as an appropriate opportunity to address the longstanding safety issues. We approached city staff, asking for recommendations to provide added safety measures for pedestrians and cyclists.

This was not a simple task. Any re-design of the bridge must accommodate large, heavy vehicles like buses and trucks. The bridge is used as part of the Lansdowne transportation plan for buses to queue for RedBlacks games and other large events. Finally, the bridge’s heritage status must be considered.

After months of collaboration with city staff, we can now present a proposed design that would provide significant safety improvements while also respecting the unique context and uses of the bridge.

The proposed design would consist of three vehicle lanes – two northbound and one southbound – each one measuring 3.5m. The northbound curb lane would continue to serve as the location for buses to queue for games and other large events at Lansdowne.

On each side of the bridge, a multi-use pathway (MUP) would be installed. They would have a width of 3.1m – for reference, pathways along the Rideau Canal are 3.0m wide. The MUPs would be shared by pedestrians and bicyclists. A metal railing extension would be added, as the current railings would not be high enough to meet provincial standards.

Bicyclists would ride on the right side, and pedestrians would walk in either direction, just as happens now. The pathways would be cleared and maintained in the winter, just as the sidewalks currently are.

This design would provide two additional advantages. Narrowing the roadway should help to calm traffic and slow vehicles. And there would also be extra space for pedestrians attending events at Lansdowne; many now walk in the road because the sidewalks are too crowded.

To view our report on the Bank Street Canal Bridge Re-Design, including alternate designs that were considered, please go to shawnmenard.ca.

Public Consultation
It is our intention to consult with residents and community associations this summer. Due to COVID-19, digital consultations will be held, but the timing and format has not been finalized. In the meantime, you are welcome to email us at CapitalWard@ottawa.ca.

Timeline
A report by the city’s traffic services department will be presented to the September meeting of the transportation committee. Any re-design of the bridge would be included in that report. If a re-design is approved, it would be done in 2021.

Thank you for reading this and for your participation in making Capital Ward the safest place in the city for transportation.

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