While the city has been busy slapping itself on the back for this development, which will employ more than 600 people, not to mention 1,500 people in the construction phase, I see problems.
Why? Well, the increased truck traffic on Highway 417 will tax an already strained highway, which is certainly near its capacity in Ottawa itself. Traffic coming from Quebec will have an easier time reaching Boundary Road.
Anyone who lives in Ottawa will tell you that the truck traffic on local highways and in the downtown core is excessive to say the very least.
When I checked out where the new Amazon facility would be located on Boundary Road, I did a quick check to see where it was in relation to a railway. It turns out, not far. Via Rail’s Alexandria Sub runs through Carlsbad Springs, which is just up the road from this facility.
I have no idea if Amazon makes use of intermodal transportation to get its goods to its facilities, but I would think there would be an opportunity here to take advantage of the economies of scale that railways offer.
Of course, the biggest challenge would be how to do you get all this merchandise to Ottawa on a train and then load those containers on trucks so it can be taken to the Amazon facility? Ottawa has no intermodal facilities in this area, save for a tiny little boxcar loading ramp located at the Rideau Bulk property next to Walkley Yard.
And that’s where the idea dies. There is so little rail infrastructure left in this city that an idea like this is dead in the water. It’s a shame because after the excitement dies down over the Amazon facilities, a few uncomfortable realities will settle in. In fact, they already have. Construction has begun on this centre and already, people in the area are complaining about the noise and dust in the local media.
This project begs the question, how is the city going to accommodate all this truck traffic on the highways? How many millions will be spent to widen Boundary Road? What will the impact of this truck traffic be on communities like Carlsbad Springs?
You might recall that I have in the past suggested that perhaps Ottawa would be an interesting site for an intermodal hub serving parts of Eastern and Northern Ontario. Of course, I’m no expert on these matters, but I wonder if anyone is thinking of possibilities like this.