Ottawa- In an effort to ease congested traffic in the downtown core, the National Capital Commission in conjunction with City Hall, opened a 2.5 km stretch of the now frozen Rideau Canal skate-way to both skaters and commuter vehicle traffic.
The bold move initiated by newly elected mayor Jim Watson will divert traffic off the 417 Queensway north onto the canal and into the downtown core during rush hour. Some concerns have been raised about the safety of this initiative with cars sharing the icy canal surface with skaters and cyclists alike. "We have some safety issues to address but I think for the most part if drivers keep their speeds to under 100km/h and use snow tires, the risks should be minimized." explained NCC Spokesperson Kathleen Hemmings who opened the canal this weekend to vehicular and skater traffic.
The issue of cycling in Ottawa has also been addressed with cyclists now being allowed on the canal, sharing the ice surface with skaters and vehicles. Mayor Watson sees the joint venture program as a viable answer to the increasing traffic problems in the city and hopes citizens will enjoy the newly opened transit corridor. "I think its great we can all share the wonderful canal the NCC maintains." Watson remarked. City Hall is also in talks with OC Transpo to have a number of bus routes diverted onto the canal to help ease the commute for Ottawa residents.
Skaters are advised to use the right hand side of the canal and vehicles to use the left and keep speeds to a minimum to avoid slippage and possible casualties. The canal is open for traffic from the Queensway at Pertoria to the downtown Rideau Street exit with an additional 3 kms being opened next weekend from Pretoria south to Bronson Ave.