SkyscraperCity Forum banner

The Queensway

  • Was a positive development to the city

    Votes: 6 66.7%
  • Was a negative development to the city

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Was both negative and positive to the city

    Votes: 3 33.3%

Ottawa's Queensways...the most important road in the city?

2616 Views 4 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  samsonyuen
Was it a positive outcome for Ottawa, or did it just lead to the path of sprawl?
1955~1964: 'Super Highway' turned city from compact town into commuter community*

Daniel Drolet
The Ottawa Citizen
Saturday, March 26, 2005

In an evocative essay entitled Moving Out, published in the 1995 anthology Fair Play and Daylight, Ottawa writer Jenny Jackson captures some of the excitement that gripped the city in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the first large suburban developments were built.

"My parents bought our lot and house from a plan," she wrote. "Every Saturday, we stood in a field of wildflowers where our house would be, my parents gazing into the sweet empty air, practically curling their toes in anticipation of their new house."

But one part of the story of her family's move to Lynwood Village in 1961 never made it into the essay.

It's the account of how, not long after they had moved, she and her mother had gone to St. Basil's Church near Woodroffe and Carling avenues, a considerable distance from their new home. After mass, Norah Jackson decided on the spur of the moment to test-drive the spanking new Queensway, which was paved but not yet open to traffic.

"She snuck past the barriers and we drove all the way to Bells Corners," recalled Ms. Jackson, a Citizen reporter, still chuckling at the naughtiness of it all.

"It's so fast!" was Norah Jackson's comment to her astonished husband.

The same could be said of the change happening to Ottawa. In the years between 1955 and 1964, the city mushroomed -- not so much in population, but in sheer size. It stretched and spread to the east and the west, along the new Queensway that was now its main street. No longer a compact town, it was a commuter community.

Headlines for the decade trumpet development projects described with superlatives.

"August Start on $31-Million Super Highway," announced the Citizen on March 19, 1957, describing the construction of the Queensway as "the greatest engineering project in Ottawa's history."

"Construction plans for a $20-million luxury housing development were announced today by Assaly Construction Ltd.," was the story on Jan. 18, 1958. "The project will be the biggest of its kind ever undertaken in the Ottawa district."

On Oct. 10, 1958, it was: "Plans for a $20-million satellite community near Bells Corners were announced today by Teron Construction Ltd. The new development will consist of some 1,000 homes to range in price from $13,000 to $18,000."

And on March 21, 1961: "Plans were announced today for the immediate development of a $17-million satellite town east of Orleans on the Queensway."

Not all the announcements came to fruition.

"A spectacular government development of 154 acres of land known as LeBreton Flats just west of Parliament Hill was announced by Public Works Minister Walker today," announced the Citizen on April 19, 1962. "The government acted yesterday to expropriate 53 acres from 240 landowners in the area, embracing a mixture of industrial plants, commercial buildings and low-standard housing.

"Ultimately, the government will spend more than $70 million on about 10 government buildings in the area, with the first of them to be completed by Canada's 1967 centennial."

Forty-three years later, the new War Museum, which opens this spring, is the first government building on LeBreton Flats.

LeBreton Flats notwithstanding, the city had burst its seams. Though Ottawa had annexed a huge chunk of Nepean in 1950, much of the development was now outside city boundaries, in the townships of Nepean, Gloucester and Cumberland.

The Greenbelt, created during this decade, was meant to contain the spread. But in his history of Nepean, entitled The City Beyond, Bruce Elliott writes that, between 1958 and 1962, speculators had already snapped up strategic lands outside the Greenbelt. Mr. Elliott says the big development projects of the decade were the result of some changes in the rules and regulations governing home construction.

Until the mid-1950s, he said, houses were most often built in small batches by individuals or small contractors. New and costly requirements for developers to shoulder the cost of infrastructure pushed small companies aside in favour of large firms, which did whole neighbourhoods in one fell swoop: "Within three years of 1958," he wrote, "integrated development companies would dominate the business, and large-scale tract housing would dominate Nepean's new housing stock."

In fact, development proceeded so fast that in some parts of Nepean, houses were built with wells and septic tanks and only later connected to municipal water systems.

The growing suburbs were straining the city's fabric.

For example, the growth of the suburbs immediately led to a decline in downtown shopping. By 1962, there was a price war between city and suburbs, with stores inside the city of Ottawa dropping prices in order to compete with suburban retailers.

"The flow of city money into stores and discount houses in Nepean and Gloucester townships last week was termed 'chilling' by one merchant," the Citizen reported on Aug. 9, 1962.

But it was the cost of housing, more than the cost of food, that drew people out. A 1962 ad touts a new, three-bedroom, split-level home in Rothwell Heights, with carport, door chimes and a 140-by-140-foot lot (but only one bathroom), for $16,174; the down payment required was only $1,690.

Traffic was beginning to be a problem. But a bigger problem seemed to be that construction, as fast as it was happening, was not happening fast enough.

On March 12, 1957, the Citizen urged Canada's banks to make more money available to finance home construction. "Unless some of the energy going into industrial expansion is diverted to house building, a serious housing shortage will develop," the newspaper warned.

In all the excitement of the decade, one development in 1961 passed largely unnoticed. North of Bells Corners, wrote Mr. Elliott, "the first two buildings of the giant Northern Electric research and development centre opened in November 1961."

Next Saturday in this decade-by-decade look at the city's first 150 years: 1965 to 1974

Facts and Figures

Traffic accidents in 1960

- Number of collisions between motor vehicles: 9,215

- Number of collisions between motor vehicles and bicycles: 176

- Number of collisions between motor vehicles and fixed objects: 374

- Number of collisions between motor vehicles and horse-drawn

vehicles: 1

- Number of collisions between motor vehicles and trains: 17

- Number of people killed after being struck by a motor vehicle: 9

- Number of drivers killed in motor-vehicle

collisions: 1

Ran with fact box "Facts and figures", which has been appended to the story.
1 - 3 of 3 Posts
Ring road might be route to go, officials say
By TOBI COHEN, Ottawa Sun
To build a ring road or not to build a ring road.

The closure of Ottawa's main east-west artery yesterday for the second time in less than three months has resurrected a 50-year-old debate over traffic woes in the capital.

Both police Chief Vince Bevan and public works officials admitted a ring road that would allow motorists to bypass the downtown core likely would have helped yesterday.

"A ring road would take a lot of the pressure off, let's face it ... " Bevan said.

A controversial subject even among city councillors, the provincial Conservatives initiated a ring-road study while in power but the plan was quashed when the Liberals took over.

According to Michael Flainek, the city's director of traffic and parking operations, many city streets have surpassed their capacity and as many as 60 intersections are failing to allow traffic through at an acceptable level.

Though a relatively minor traffic emergency, recent world events like the evacuations in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina have also highlighted the need for emergency traffic planning -- something the city's emergency measures unit manager said is well underway.

John Ash said the city is currently working on a full-scale evacuation plan. Officials are examining how different scenarios would affect traffic and are looking at the major arteries to see what sort of traffic volume they could handle.
I don't think anything's being done nowadays though. With the government change, I don't think it's a pet project of the Libs as it was for Eves' PC government.
1 - 3 of 3 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.