Monday, April 16, 2012

Somerset Street Reconstruction Part 11: Planning the O-Train Pathway

In the previous part of the 15-part series on the reconstruction of Somerset Street West, we looked at the City Centre complex, shown here with one of the many piles of garbage scattered behind the building.

The City Centre's connection to the Somerset Street reconstruction has to do with the tunnel built under Somerset last year, which will connect a new pathway in an existing corridor between the City Centre building and the O-Train tracks. Here's that corridor from the Somerset Street bridge, looking North to Albert and Bayview station.

Back in the city's industrial heyday, this view contained many railway tracks and industrial facilities; the north-south corridor was purchased by government bodies as part of the massive (and mostly unbuilt) downtown freeway plans of the 1960s.

The bridge that crosses the historic view below (which is from the Gréber report) is not the familiar one connecting Albert and Scott, but actually the old Wellington Street bridge. I blogged about that former connection in 2010. At some point in the future, a pedestrian/cyclist bridge will be built over it as the City Centre and surrounding lands (such as 801 Albert, owned by DCR Phoenix) are redeveloped.

In June 2010, the members of the public advisory committee for the Somerset project went on a behind-the-scenes tour of the pathway route with the project's engineers and consultants. Which Eric also captured in a DCA blog post)

The path is a key connection of the Capital Pathway network, which would connect Dow's Lake and Nepean Bay (i.e. Bayview), and form a loop around downtown. It's the green dotted line (meaning a future pathway) in this map from the Ottawa Cycling Plan:

I'm not on the committee that's looking at the detailed design of the pathway, so I don't know the details as intimately. Nevertheless, I have gleaned some information from the prior discussions at the Somerset reconstruction design meetings, and subsequently from Eric Darwin and others on the committee.

During the June 2010 walkabout we went up to Bayview Station to consider ways to connect the pathway through Bayview station out to the Ottawa River Pathway.

While we were out along the tracks, the O-Train went by, prompting one of the consultants to start frantically taking photos, presumably for future use in DelCan reports. Though to be honest, I did the same thing, for largely the same reason. With the great light and vivid colours, it was just too good to pass up:

The pathway would come out from underneath where these two people are standing, and cut through where there's a snow-covered hill. The trees, unfortunately, will have to come out:

Even though it wasn't in the scope of their project, the consultants for the Somerset reconstruction went through a few iterations of drawings for ways to connect Somerset to the pathway along the O-Train tracks. While stairs were proposed for the North side, a long pathway on the south side would wheeled users to get up and down. Stairs on the north sidewalk of Somerset would avoid people crossing dangerously on the crest of the bridge; however, I have also heard the idea floated to not build the stairs and use those costs to extend the pathway further south. I don't know the status of that.

Since there were neither stairs nor pathway when we did our walkabout in June 2010, we had to walk down the hill.

Once you get down to the track level (not that you should; it's dangerous to be near active rail lines), it seems odd that we would need to build a separate tunnel for a pathway when there's plenty of room under the existing bridge. However, that space is reserved by the City's light rail department for the future addition of a second track (you can see how the current track is off to one side).

When the train went by, there was another flurry of photos by those of us with cameras.

Since most people won't (and shouldn't) go near the tracks, I made a point of taking some close-up shots to save you the trouble. At least one person who shouldn't have been there wrote "EVOKE" on the side of the rail.

The pathway will come out at Gladstone. Currently there is a partly paved, mostly stone dust pathway from Carling up to Young Street (which is just south of the Queensway) and a dirt path that goes North from Young Street, ending here at Gladstone:

I hear that the section to be built in 2012 (just in time for winter...) will be paved all the way to Young Street, but that's enough to get the picture. After all, the series is on the Somerset Street reconstruction!

Eric Darwin has written a few posts on the planning of this tunnel on his blog, West Side Action. In this post, Eric notes that the existing segments of pathway (including the dirt path) are plowed in the winter.

In this one, Eric further describes the entire pathway project (as it stood last May), as well as the "hanging lake" at the top of the Somerset Street bridge over the O-Train tracks.

As was noted on the DCA's blog at the time, this tunnel was approved in August 2010 for construction in 2011. This was a bit controversial, because the funding was only for the tunnel, and not the pathway that it connects. Some people didn't want to build the tunnel this year only to sit empty for a year. Luckily, people realized that closing Somerset in 2012 to dig up the road that was rebuilt in 2011 would have been foolish, and would have caused additional hardship to the businesses on the street.

And since the tunnel was built last year, I can show you photos! That'll be in the next post* in the series!

*Link won't work until that post goes up

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