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Designing Neighbourhood Collector Streets


In 2019, Ottawa’s City Council approved the new ‘Designing Neighbourhood Collector Streets’ document. These up-to date technical guidelines show designers how to balance space within typical street rights-of-way to provide enhanced space for walking and cycling, transit amenities, large trees, and low-impact stormwater management features – all while integrating low vehicle speed design. The guide applies to new collector streets and informs renewal projects. It was developed in consultation with industry, utility, transportation and environmental stakeholders – the primary users of the document.

Existing standard street designs mix cyclists with cars on the street, underperform for street trees and environmental quality, and do not meet complete street objectives. The key innovation in this document is the considerable technical depth. A set of nine “pre-vetted” collector street designs and custom design guidance ensures constructability by illustrating complete streets that address key operational needs including below grade utilities, road maintenance, transit and emergency response requirements.

These guidelines demonstrate that space can be reallocated to provide safe, comfortable and separated facilities for the most vulnerable street users – pedestrians and cyclists of all ages and abilities and reduce traditionally extensive street pavement widths. They also demonstrate how to provide sufficient space for large trees to flourish, even in Ottawa’s clay soils and buffer them from harsh winter maintenance activities. Broad boulevards can accommodate bioswales to mitigate impacts of increasingly common major storm events. These measures also mitigate heat impacts and sequester carbon at street level, provide habitats for birds and pollinators, and absorb rainwater while contributing to Ottawa’s neighbourhood livability.

The “pre-vetted” designs may account for 5-15% increase in capital costs, but with the benefit of reduced costs associated with street design and review, as well as on-going operations and maintenance, and an improved environment for sustainable transportation.

Other municipalities can follow a similar process and develop their own guidance to create buildable streets. The weekly stakeholder follow-ups, utility working group sessions, and one-on-one information exchanges addressed issues of technical depth and informed the project team. This document contains solutions to guide technical users and inform citizens when ‘Designing Neighbourhood Collector Streets’.

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Environmental Achievement Award Finalists (PS)
Swan, Justin
Climate change, Environmental issues