OTTAWA - The United States is kicking in half a million dollars towards beautifying the ugly concrete barricades around its embassy in Ottawa.

The large cement blocks cut off a lane of traffic on a stretch of Sussex Drive in the capital's popular Byward Market neighbourhood.

They've been a bone of contention for local businesses since they were put in place as an added security measure following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

The barricades will be replaced with "visually pleasing" bollards that will still keep cars from approaching the gleaming fortress-like compound that sits in the heart of Ottawa's tourist district. The total cost of the project, which will include a new four-block bike path on Sussex, is just over $3 million, with $2.5 million coming from the federal government's stimulus fund, and $125,000 from the city of Ottawa.

U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson says the new bollards will make his country better neighbours while meeting his government's security needs.

Jacobson began his posting to Ottawa last fall, and said he was not impressed with the cement barricades when he first laid eyes on them following a driving tour of Parliament Hill, the Rideau Falls and other sights in the capital.