The sheer number of protesters and vehicles expected to arrive in Ottawa with the trucker convoys may make it very hard to get around this weekend.
The convoys — which include transport truck operators from across the country and participants more broadly opposed to public health mandates — are planning to meet and stage protests in Ottawa.
Organizers tracking the group’s progress say a group should arrive from Kingston around noon Friday. Kingston Police said there were more than 100 trucks and about 550 vehicles total.
More drivers coming from both western and eastern Canada are converging on the city around noon Saturday for a demonstration planned on Parliament Hill.
The first trucks began arriving in the city Thursday afternoon, with a few more parked near Parliament Hill Friday morning.
The City of Ottawa says residents should begin to expect “significant traffic and transit delays or disruptions.”
“People who are planning to travel by car into the downtown core and surrounding area should allow for additional time and plan possible alternate routes to their destinations,” the city’s release said.
The city expects the disruptions to continue into Sunday. City and police officials are holding a news conference at 11 a.m. ET.
Road closures so far
Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) anticipate delays on Highways 417 and 416 starting Friday afternoon. There are some lane and ramp closures where the northbound 416 meets the eastbound 417.
The city brought Laurier Avenue West between Elgin and Nicholas streets down to one lane each way and Elgin between Laurier and Wellington street down to two lanes early Friday as part of its preparations.
Wellington is down to one westbound lane from Elgin to O’Connor Street.
A planned stop in Arnprior Friday afternoon has led to a road closure there.
OPP say they will be managing or closing intersections starting at 10 a.m. Saturday on Boundary Road, Highway 44 and Highway 138 as the convoy goes from Cornwall to the 417
In Kingston, Ont., police closed Gardiners Road and Highway 38 on Thursday as the first large fleet of transport trucks and cars rolled through that evening. That group started leaving around 8:30 a.m. Friday.
Closures include some vaccine clinics
Ottawa police are asking residents not to travel if they can avoid it this weekend, with “major traffic disruptions” expected in the downtown core.
“If you have appointments, children in activities, are expecting food deliveries, please be prepared to adjust your plans,” police tweeted.
They say they’ll do everything they “possibly can” to keep emergency lanes open and access to hospitals and health-care facilities intact.
The force is also planning for a range of other potential disruptions, including counter-demonstrations, blocked-off intersections, interference with critical infrastructure and violence, according to acting deputy chief Trish Ferguson.
Police have said that while the main convoy has been relatively peaceful in its cross-country journey, there are concerns about other protests and counter-protests.
As a result, some Ottawa businesses have chosen to close for the weekend.
Ottawa Public Health has closed its vaccine clinics at the University of Ottawa from Friday through Sunday and its Lowertown Neighbourhood Vaccine Hub will be closed on Friday.
For those with appointments, OPH says they can be rebooked or people can drop-in to other clinics in the city.
In anticipation of the demonstrations, the Société de transport de l’Outaouais (STO) has preemptively modified its Saturday transit schedule.
It will only be running its 400 series buses in the Rapibus corridor across the provincial border to the Pimisi O-Train station at Lebreton. All other buses, including the 31 and 33, will end at Terrasses de la Chaudière.
The STO says additional changes may be made throughout the weekend. As of Thursday evening, OC Transpo had not announced any pre-emptive schedule adjustments.