Former Nicholas Street in Ottawa
Nicholas Street in Ottawa
Title: Untitled. Reference number: AE-938
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Regression in the urban fabric. Increase in car traffic.
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This comparison, and the many that will follow, gives an idea of what Nicholas Street used to be compared to the long 417 Queensway off ramp and onramp that it is now. As the archival photo shows, the modest Nicholas Street had some flaws; it had several parking lots along it and it was not really connecting to anything at its south end, but it was a street with buildings interfacing with it. It certainly contrasts with thoroughfare that it has become where its sole purpose is to facilitate downtown access to commuters reaching the city centre using the Queensway. At some point, it was laid out to be part of the missing link between highways connecting Ottawa and Gatineau which never really materialized itself.

Now that the discussion to build a tunnel to link the two highway systems seems to be back on the priority list, we would expect the number of vehicles using Nicholas to be reduced considerably. This might be the opportunity to repurpose Nicholas Street, most likely north of where the photos where taken, into a more urban street by reducing its capacity, widening its sidewalks and get rid of its highway feel.

We have little hope that this will even cross the mind anyone at city hall as there is no appetite right now from Ottawa’s officials to balance budget allocation for car-centric projects versus active transportation projects as any projects of this realm have been filed under “war of cars” projects which is obviously a threat to the masses’ lifestyle (and Watson’s re-election). Watson thinks he is a champion of transit, but over the last eight years he has been into power, never in the history of Ottawa we have seen such an increase in road capacity within the core with the widening of Scott Street, Albert Street, the hospital link and the removal of hundreds of buses from Slater and Albert Streets.

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