---City recommends keeping part of Robert-Stewart Street closed
On May 18, Gatineau officials recommended keeping a portion of Ch. Robert-Stewart permanently closed to vehicles and to eventually renovate it for active transportation between rue Jockey and rue Denise Pelletier. The recommendation also included implementing an interconnective emergency laneway between Rue Howard and Rue Félix-Leclerc ($100,000), and to put in place an access way to allow the city to conduct sewage collection ($15,000).
Planning on urbanizing chemin Rivermead between chemin d’Aylmer and boulevard de Lucerne (cost to be evaluated), the city also intends to install traffic lights and renovate turning lanes at the intersection of Rivermead and Lucerne in the medium term ($760,000). To be financed from the city’s cycling plan, the city hopes to complete implementing a safe active transportation link on chemin Robert-Stewart between boulevard de Lucerne and rue Jockey ($285,000) within five years of striking a deal with a developer.
Having fought to keep the street closed since the start of his mandate in 2017, Deschênes district councillor Mike Duggan said he was thrilled with the Services des infrastructures’ recommendation and their service. Service des infrastructures Director Jean Audet explained that, back in April 2019, Municipal council mandated his department to conduct a traffic study with the purpose of gathering information on the potential impacts of shutting down chemin Robert-Stewart from vehicles.
The study ultimately concluded that opening that portion of the road to cars was “absolutely not necessary” to enhance circulation and benefit the area’s urban development. Stating that north-south traffic is relatively low in the area and that traffic is largely concentrated on east-west arteries like chemin d’Aylmer and boulevard de Lucerne, Audet said opening chemin Robert-Stewart to cars would not mitigate circulation issues.
---Cycling lanes and access to Parc-O-Bus
While opening it could improve nearby public transportation access, reduce the fire department’s response time by one minute for nearly 150 homes, and allow the police to slightly better serve the area, Audet said keeping it closed would also encourage active transportation - notably allowing kids a place to walk to and from school. Audet explained that chemin d’Aylmer and chemin Vanier are classified as secondary arteries, while chemin Rivermead and chemin Robert-Stewart are known as collective arteries. He added that chemin Vanier and chemin d’Aylmer provide public transportation service to the Rivermead Parc-O-Bus, and boulevard de Lucerne includes cycling lanes. Noting that trucking is only allowed on chemin d’Aylmer, Audet noted that chemin d’Aylmer and chemin Vanier are the only of those streets to have sidewalks.
During morning rush hour, Audet said chemin d’Aylmer is highly congested causing circulation issues at the intersections of chemin Vanier, avenue de l’Hippodrome, and chemin Rivermead, whereas circulation on boulevard de Lucerne is considerably less problematic. In the afternoon, Audet said traffic conditions on chemin d’Aylmer are generally good, despite some more problematic turns at the intersection of chemin Vanier, and the conditions on boulevard de Lucerne are also relatively favourable. He stated that the Rivermead and Vanier north-south corridors allow acceptable circulation conditions. But he noted that they don’t provide any active transportation infrastructure except for sidewalks on the east side of Vanier.
Expecting traffic levels to spike as a result of numerous nearby development projects, Audet said circulation conditions during morning and afternoon rush hour will get considerably more difficult on chemin d’Aylmer in the future. Audet said Rivermead’s circulation flow should increase by more than 30 per cent. In October 2018, Duggan submitted a proposition to municipal council requesting to permanently close the road, before requesting the Service des infrastructures to study the pros and cons of closing it that November. In December of that year, Duggan presented arguments to shut down to vehicles the road long term and renovating it for active transportation purposes, which members of the Executive committee were said to have received favourably.
In March 2019, the Services des infrastructures, Services de l’urbanisme et du développement durable, and the Services des affaires juridiques, and the Service du greffe, along with Duggan, presented the matter to the Executive committee. In May 2020, the Service des infrastructures presented to the Executive committee that opening chemin Robert-Stewart to road traffic was unnecessary, and suggested negotiating with developers to install traffic lights at the intersection of chemin d’Aylmer and chemin Rivermead.
Last March, the Service des infrastructures presented an update on previous negotiations and the validation of the study. Noting that council will officially vote on the matter on June 8, Duggan told the Aylmer Bulletin he’s confident that it will approve the recommendations. While already highly sought by nearby residents as an active transportation corridor, Duggan believes renovating chemin Robert-Stewart is an important step towards making it safer and more aesthetically pleasing.
As part of the Save Robert-Stewart Facebook group, Lakeview Terrace Neighbourhood Association President Anik Des Marais said she was very happy to learn that it will remain closed off to vehicles for good. She believes the environmental impacts of keeping it closed far outweigh the positives of opening it to vehicles. “It’s a wonderful road, with an amazing number of trees and it’s used all the time by young and old people, cyclists and pedestrians,” Des Marais said, noting that it doesn’t need to change but that she welcomes the proposed renovations. “I love it the way it is. There is a neat wild side to it.”