Traffic worries dominate casino open house

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Traffic worries dominate casino open house

People living near Ottawa's Rideau Carleton Raceway worry a planned casino expansion will further snarl traffic in the area.

Dozens of people attended an open house Wednesday night to get a glimpse of the Hard Rock Casino's $318 million proposed expansion of the Albion Road casino.

The expansion includes an eight-storey hotel, a 2,500-seat concert venue and 20 new gaming tables.

While the project is being promoted as a boon to Ottawa's rural south end, some residents are voicing concerns about pending traffic congestion in the area.

Joseph Scott lives nearby and said Albion Road is bumper-to-bumper during rush hour. He fears the busy road can't handle any more traffic.

"People come [to the casino] on off times but it has a regular, constant flow. That's good if you're in the racetrack, casino business. That's what they want. But you have to think about the traffic flow," he said. 

"You have all sorts of communities, neighbourhoods, schools, buses. Those all travel down those roads."

A traffic assessment concluded there would be "minimal" traffic impact with the expansion, with construction slated to begin next year through 2023.

Road widening projects in the surrounding area were also seen as ways to manage the heavy flow of vehicles to the casino, though some won't be completed until 2031.

Assessment raises questions

Coun. Diane Deans, who represents a neighbouring ward, said she wants city staff to revisit the assessment.

"They have omitted the 2,500-seat theatre as a traffic generator, they've omitted a restaurant as a traffic generator, they've made an assumption that each car, on average, will have two-and-a-half people travelling in it. I don't agree with that," Deans said.

"If you make false assumptions in your transportation document then you get false answers."

Hard Rock is also seeking approval from the city to build a live concert venue in the hopes of attracting major acts to the city and creating an entertainment district in south Ottawa.

The expansion also calls for a steakhouse restaurant with 150 seats and a 40 seat lounge, but those elements do not require council approval.

The expansion is an opportunity for the city to consider revisiting its infrastructure plan for roads like the Airport Parkway and Bank Street, according to Martin Eley, president of the South Keys Greenboro Community Association.

"It's just going to be a long problem before it ever gets better," he said.

"We think with a lot of development … there should be an ample flow of tax dollars going up that would hopefully accelerate some of those road projects that need to be done."

City could 'expedite' road projects

Colin Simpson, the City of Ottawa's program manager for transportation engineering services, said the city could consider "expediting" those projects so they aren't completed when it's too late. 

Other residents were less critical of the project, saying they aren't concerned with traffic and want to see a world-class casino in their own backyard.

"I think the expansion is a good idea. I think the expansion will help the south end of Ottawa grow a bit," said Victor Ban. 

The next public meeting on the project will be March 19 at the RA Centre at 6:30 p.m.

City council is expected to make a decision on the application in the spring.