Watson calls Ottawa commuter chaos downtown a "once in 150 year" problem

Transit badly delayed by closure of Wellington Street
Barricades
Security corrals were set up on Wellington Street on Wednesday leading to a screening tent for entrance onto Parliament Hill. The steps have forced the closure of Wellington Street at some times, with a complete closure coming Friday morning. (Photo by Ryan Tumilty / Metro)

City officials are hopeful traffic delays will get better as Canada Day nears, but are also saying you can’t bake a 150th birthday cake without breaking a few commutes.

Commuters were left waiting at OC Transpo stops and in their cars for at least 30 or 45 extra minutes extra as Wellington Street closed, congesting routes everywhere in the core.

Mayor Jim Watson said he’s sympathetic and the city is doing everything it can to ease congestion, but it’s also a unique event.

“I don’t want to minimize that there are some challenges, but I think this is something happens once every 150 years,” he said. “There is no question there is some real challenges in the area, but I think people understand.”

Watson said the city has to accommodate the unprecedented level of security for Canada Day events on Parliament Hill. He said the city had plenty of advance notice about the required closures but there is only so much that can be done.

“We can plan all we want, but the minute it goes from paper into reality there are always going to be challenges and bumps along the road.”

Phil Landry, the city’s director of traffic services, said that, as they get closer to Canada Day, they are hopeful that fewer people will be coming into work and those that do will find new routes. 

“As time goes on those impacts lessen because people take other routes to get to where they’re going,” he said.

He said that, with Wellington either closed or down to one lane these last few days, the city has few places to go.

“This year with Queen Street being under construction it makes more of a challenge in terms of using that street.”

In one bright spot, the O-Train's annual maintenance was completed early and the train returned to service Wednesday afternoon.

This story originally appeared in Metro News.