Ottawa council eyes future of Wellington Street nearly a year after ‘Freedom Convoy’

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe says the city’s transportation committee will vote next week on whether to extend the closure of Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill.

A section of the major east-west artery in Ottawa’s downtown has been closed to traffic since last year’s “Freedom Convoy” demonstration.

Sutcliffe told the National Capital Commission Thursday that the motion to close Wellington Street to vehicles was in effect until the end of 2022, and an interim decision needs to be made as council considers a longer-term plan.

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“Our transportation committee is going to make a decision next week about what to do next while we’re imagining the future, the permanent (and) long-term future of Wellington Street,” said Sutcliffe.

Yasir Naqvi, the member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre, said on Twitter that he wants the street to stay closed and the area to be reimagined as a “pedestrian-first space.”

“I believe our short-term focus should be on activating the street with benches, food stands and amenities until a long-term project to reimagine can begin,” Naqvi wrote.

Other city councillors have echoing Naqvi’s calls. Jeff Leiper said he has been in support of closing the street from the beginning, and there are better uses for the space than to “ferry cars through the downtown core.”

A Jan. 17 memo to city council from Phil Landry, the city’s traffic director, said the closure has resulted in increased traffic on other major streets in the downtown core.

“Overall, the closure of Wellington Street has not caused a total failure of the transportation network in the area mainly due to the lower traffic and pedestrian volumes,” Landry wrote.

But as federal public servants and other workers transition back into the office, there is a concern there will be increased congestion.

The memo said a transportation study will be done to see how downtown road networks are performing as more people return to the area.

Landry said a final recommendation on the future of Wellington Street won’t come until later this year or early 2024.

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