Region-wide LRT plan unveiled by task force
New bridge to Gatineau also urged in report
Last Updated: Wednesday, June 6, 2007 | 4:07 PM ET
An Ottawa light-rail network reaching as far as Carp, Gatineau, Cumberland, Alexandria, Mitch Owens Road and Smiths Falls should be built by 2017, the mayor's transportation task force has recommended.
Along the way, the rail line would tunnel through Ottawa's downtown and stop at the Ottawa International Airport, said the report released Tuesday by the panel led by former transport minister David Collenette.
The trains would initially run on diesel like the existing O-Train shown here, except in the downtown tunnel where they would switch to electric power.The task force assembled by Mayor Larry O'Brien after the cancellation of Ottawa's north-south light rail contract worked almost five months on the study.
As expected, the report focuses on an extensive light rail network using existing rail corridors and rights-of-way.
Task force member Hume Rogers said the plan has not been priced out, but he expects the first phase, to be built by 2017, to cost less than $900 million, including $450 million for the downtown tunnel.
Some other recommendations are that:
- Diesel-electric trains be used that would initially run on diesel, switching to electric power in the downtown tunnel. The rest of the track would be gradually electrified over time.
- Each light-rail transit station be a hub for local buses running short routes.
- The system's main hub be the downtown Union Station across from the Chateau Laurier, which is currently used as a government conference centre.
- Expansions be built to Arnprior, Wakefield, Masson and Carleton Place by 2037.
- A new bridge to Gatineau be built east of downtown.
- The Prince of Wales Bridge just west of LeBreton Flats be opened to rail freight.
- OC Transpo be made an arm's-length company instead of a city department to give it more freedom to implement the recommendations.
Collenette said the downtown tunnel is a crucial recommendation.
"We're a metropolis of a million people and … the only way to move people through the downtown core is to move them underground," he said.
He added that the proposed downtown hub in Union Station serving the Byward Market, the Rideau Centre, the Ottawa Congress Centre and the parliamentary precinct was one of the most exciting features of the proposal.
"This … would give Ottawa a great, historic station for the use of future generations," he said.
'I think it's a feast for thought.'
— Coun. Steve Desroches
Hanif Patni, another task force member, said he knows some people might criticize the proposal to run the trains on diesel initially.
"But think about all the cars that we're preventing from coming into the town and all the pollutants we're reducing by putting everybody into trains and allowing them to come in faster than a car would come in," he said. "That, to me, is the most elegant part of our proposal."
Funding still needs discussion: councillor
City councillors were briefed on the plan before its official release Wednesday morning.
"I think it's a feast for thought," Coun. Steve Desroches told CBC's Ottawa Morning afterward.
He added that the plan puts other levels of goverment on notice. "We are going to require the federal-provincial funding. We are going to have to work with our counterparts across the river to implement this."
The city still needs to discuss funding, engineering considerations and jurisdictional questions that come up if the system is to reach into other municipalities such as Gatineau, Desroches said.
Kitchissippi Coun. Christine Leadman said she thought the plan was interesting and was pleased that made use of existing infrastructure.
When asked what she thought of the cost, Leadman noted that it wasn't the task force's role to price out the plan, but she was confident in the ballpark figures, as they were based on transit systems in other cities such as Montreal.
Coun. Diane Deans, who supported the cancelled light rail plan, was more concerned about that aspect.
"The two issues for me — money and ridership — neither one has been taken into account," she said.
Meanwhile, the report was well received by at least one representative of the city's business community.
Gail Logan, president of the Greater Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, applauded the task force's work.
"I think we need to go on with it sooner rather than later, and I trust that council will accept their recommendations to have a look at the underground tunnel."
David Collenette will speak on CBC Radio One's All in a Day at 5:15 p.m. ET.
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