Glebe streets: Bank Street & Bronson Avenue

It’s the season for construction and changes — here’s an update on what is happening with two of the Glebe’s main throughways, Bank Street and Bronson Avenue.

Who is Underground Sound and what are we up to?
Bronson reconstruction update

Who is Underground Sound and what are we up to?

By Lynn Barlow

In 2005, a small group of people came together to raise money through concerts and fundraisers for the purpose of burying the wires under Bank Street. Members of the group ranged from merchants such as Scotiabank, Ian Boyd from Compact Disc and Jim McKeen from McKeen Metro Glebe to residents such as June Creelman, Leslie Fulton, Caroline Vanneste, Bob Brocklebank and Janet Sutherland. Some were Glebe Community Association members and some were Glebe Business Group people (now the BIA). The dream was to remove the wooden hydro poles and have the wires buried.

In March 2011, the City of Ottawa came up with a cost-benefit analysis framework for an underground wiring policy. It took into account affordability, desirability and technical feasibility. On average it costs $2.5 million per kilometre to bury wires, 4 to 10 times more than the cost to rebuild above-ground hydro poles.

How many of us walk right by this old streetcar pole on Bank Street (near the lions at Reliable Parts) without realizing its place in Glebe history? Photo: Lynn Armstrong

How many of us walk right by this old streetcar pole on Bank Street (near the lions at Reliable Parts) without realizing its place in Glebe history? Photo: Lynn Armstrong

In this report the City analysed eight sample streets in the city: Metcalfe, Elgin, Bank in the Glebe, Bank Street south, St. Joseph, Strandherd, Eagleson and Perth Street. In the case of Bank Street in the Glebe, the cost was estimated to be between $6.5 and $11 million due to several cost factors, such as the relocation of telecom wires and land rights for pad-mount transformers, underground cable chambers and the actual cost of the transformers themselves plus sectionalizes.

The total cost of burying the wires for all eight streets came close to $100 million. The City decided, based on the cost-benefit analysis, that there was no financial return for the City to invest in the burial of wires, in view of its need to meet other demands such as existing infrastructure renewal and other funding priorities.

Over 20 per cent of roads are in need of resurfacing or reconstruction in Ottawa, and the annual budget typically allows less than two per cent of these needs to be addressed. Without a new source of funding, adding the cost of hydro burial would further affect the City’s ability to plan and carry out infrastructure renewal projects. The City considered the expense and the reasoning, and determined it to be too costly at that time. Planning staff recommended that burial of wires on City rights-of-way be undertaken only when the full cost of burial is paid for by the requesting party, or as otherwise approved by Council on a case-by-case basis.

As a result, on May 24, 2011, Bank Street reconstruction began without the burial of wires.

Terry Gillespie performs at a 2007 Underground Sound concert at the Glebe Community Centre. Photo: Jake Morrison

Terry Gillespie performs at a 2007 Underground Sound concert at the Glebe Community Centre.
Photo: Jake Morrison

Today in 2015, Underground Sound has approximately $49,000 that was raised through concerts and fundraising. Since this money couldn’t be put towards burying the wires, it will be used instead for beautifying Bank Street. It still fits with the Underground Sound mandate “for the purposes of promoting and fostering the beautification of Bank Street, Ottawa in the Glebe.”

In the past year, Underground Sound has received close to 50 different ideas on how to beautify Bank Street. Depending on costs, extensibility of projects, feasibility and desirability, the following projects have made the short list:

  • Murals on frequently tagged walls
  • Lighting on Bank Street
  • Plaque or banner making the old streetcar pole stand out
  • Clock in the Glebe
  • This summer, Underground Sound will be tackling these four projects.

    If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at:

    Lynn Barlow is a member of the Underground Sound group tackling Bank Street beautification.


    Bronson reconstruction update

    By Jason Vallis

    Bronson at Carling Avenue, around 2 p.m. Photo: Steve Harris

    Bronson at Carling Avenue, around 2 p.m. Photo: Steve Harris

    On April 30, Glebe community members nominated by the Glebe Community Association’s Traffic Committee participated in the first Public Advisory Committee (PAC) meeting with city planners and our Councillor, David Chernushenko, to discuss the Bronson Avenue reconstruction. The meeting was a preview of the city’s initial design for the stretch of Bronson between the Queensway and the Canal following the replacement of the main combined sewage and water mains. This construction is slated for 2018–2019 but is subject to future council approval.

    The meeting allowed for members of the PAC to present findings from community surveys and walkability audits conducted over the last year by the Glebe Traffic Committee in partnership with Ecology Ottawa. City planners also presented some of the constraints and opportunities such a large reconstruction project provides.

    Leading up to this meeting, the Glebe Traffic Committee had collected feedback from hundreds of local residents regarding their current concerns with Bronson and suggestions for improvement. Responses ranged from detailed observations regarding sidewalk widths to large-scale suggestions of dedicated public transit lanes, or reversing traffic flow to accommodate commuters.

    Common throughout the results was a concern for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists on Bronson Avenue due to cars speeding, changing lanes erratically and running red lights. Glebe residents also commented that Bronson is an essential main artery from downtown to the airport and must be kept as such.

    In the end, the GCA formally adopted six recommendations on April 28 that were provided to the city in a 26-page report summarizing the findings of the two audits and an online survey:

  • Improve driver adherence to the rules of the road, speeding, red-light running and yielding to pedestrians
  • Improve pedestrian safety on Bronson sidewalks
  • Improve and increase number of safe options for pedestrian crossing
  • Improve cycling safety by linking Bronson bridge infrastructure with the Glebe Neighbourhood Bikeway
  • Encourage safe and efficient traffic flow (reduce congestion and improve roadway efficiency)
  • Improve the streetscape and environment in keeping with its residential nature and Traditional Main Street designation, including provisioning of street trees and adequate underground soil volume for the trees.
  • Each recommendation was complemented with suggested measures for consideration, such as removing parking between Carling Avenue and the Canal and narrowing lanes to reduce vehicle speeds, and providing wider sidewalks for pedestrians. The report also looked at the impacts of projects outside the immediate reconstruction area, such as the widening of the airport parkway, and provide suggestions to alleviate upstream traffic congestion with better high-speed transit solutions and park n’ ride options.

    The city planners were pleased to see such a detailed report, commenting that it makes their job easier to understand the communities’ concerns at the beginning stages of the design process. It was also acknowledged that not all suggestions were unanimously supported by all Glebe residents, such as the introduction of a signalized crossing between Carling and Fifth Avenue.

    For their part, the City engineer and an engineer from Robinson Consultants presented the main objective of the Bronson reconstruction, as well as some design considerations, before walking the PAC through their initial design. The primary objective of the project is to replace aging underground infrastructure dating as far back as 1887, in addition to improving the surface works. Design considerations include ensuring proper pedestrian facilities and linkages to neighbourhood bike paths.

    Measures to reduce vehicle speeds were also presented, such as maximizing on-street parking – a method that some members of the PAC did not find very effective, given current parking restrictions and high vehicle speeds. Finally, the group studied a series of design boards that showed a revised Bronson Avenue within the same curb boundaries, but with tighter side street corners and reduced side street widths. Most dramatic was a design option to introduce a signalized intersection at Kippewa Drive and Bronson Avenue, which saw the removal of the island and the street width reduced to eight meters, a significant improvement for pedestrian safety.

    With the initial PAC meeting complete, members will review the material presented and provide feedback to the City to ensure the proposed design meets the recommendations approved by the GCA board. A general public viewing of the updated design is tentatively scheduled for this summer with a follow-up public open house on the detailed design in late fall. Watch this space for further details and feel free to provide feedback to

    Jason Vallis is a member of the Dow’s Lake Residents Association and the Glebe Community Association (GCA)’s Traffic Committee.


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