City must improve infrastructure, manage growth

By Carol Anne Meehan

Gloucester-South Nepean Councillor

When I decided to run for City Council back in 2018, one of the primary reasons came from my frustration with how our City was growing. Suburb upon suburb was being built, but all lacked the new roads and infrastructure needed to accommodate all the cars and trucks.  Naively, I thought we could plan better, and as a city councillor, I would have some influence. 

Despite having successfully convinced city bureaucrats in 2019 to spend $57 million in federal gas tax money on our poorly maintained roads and infrastructure, nothing has changed. That said, what we currently spend is still nowhere near what we need. 

All of this ties into a proposal to amend the zoning on the Merivale Business Parklands to accommodate a warehouse and truck terminal. This site is surrounded by mainly two-lane roads that have not been upgraded to meet current traffic demands.  

The Business Park was established 30 years ago by the former City of Nepean, has sat under-developed for decades, but that’s changing. 

Novatech, the company hired by the applicant to provide the traffic study, assures me there are no imminent plans to build. This zoning amendment application is coming forward to add a warehouse and truck depot as a primary use to improve the property’s appeal for businesses.  The site is already zoned for a warehouse as a secondary purpose.  Speculation is that whatever company moves to the site, it will provide services to the ever-growing e-commerce sector, which needs new locations to receive packages shipped from manufacturers around the globe, which are then trucked to local customers. 

The business park, bounded by Merivale Road, Prince of Wales, Longfields to Woodroffe and Fallowfield, is situated between the Ottawa Airport and the new Amazon Centre in Barrhaven. On paper, the site may look ideal, but I see two big problems.  The area around the location is now built up.  It’s home to thousands of residents who worry about the impact of truck traffic on their communities.  Let me say that trucks are not permitted on residential streets.  Residents need to know that. But as the councillor for the area, I am committed to finding ways to mitigate valid noise, pollution and safety concerns.    

Problem number two relates to infrastructure – specifically the old roads used by traffic into and out of the Business Park.  There are currently no plans to expand Merivale Road, Prince of Wales, from Hunt Club to Merivale won’t be widened until 2026-2031.  The same can be said about the other surrounding roads, including Fallowfield.   

Before the pandemic, all these roads were gridlocked during the daily commute. What happens when we add transports and other trucks? 

When I asked that question to city staff, the answer I got is that we need the jobs, and we cannot penalize a new company just because we have two-lane roads that are falling apart and can barely handle current traffic.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not against economic growth and new jobs. The south end of Ottawa is hot with new business growth.  We don’t want to lose opportunities, so let’s work on building roads that can accommodate growth and not penalize residents. 

We must start with changing how we allocate money to upgrading infrastructure. In Barrhaven and Riverside South, the City collects millions of dollars from new projects.  Consider the new Amazon warehouse paid the City $32 million in development charges.  Instead of being spent on infrastructure to benefit the south end, that money went into a pot to be spent on projects across the City.  

That makes no sense, especially now. 

Ottawa has terrible roads and infrastructure.  Let’s change how Ottawa upgrades our infrastructure to properly manage the City’s growth while improving our local economy. 

My office is hosting an information session on Thursday, May 13th. Please contact my office if you would like to receive the virtual link.