Justin Trudeau pledges more than $1B for Ottawa LRT's Phase 2

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this morning announced more than $1 billion in funding for the second stage of Ottawa's LRT project.

Phase 2 will see light rail extended east to Trim Road, west to Moodie Drive and south to Bowesville by 2023

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday morning that the federal government will contribute more than $1 billion to the second phase of Ottawa's light rail project. (CBC News)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced more than $1 billion in funding for the second stage of Ottawa's LRT project.

Trudeau announced the funding at a news conference Friday morning at the O-Train Belfast Yard maintenance and storage facility — where the Alstrom light-rail trains are being assembled — alongside Mayor Jim Watson and other politicians.

"It's a project that will create jobs, nearly 1,000 full-time jobs for people here in Ottawa," Trudeau told the crowd.

The project will also take 14,000 vehicles off the road during Ottawa's rush hour and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 99,700 tonnes, he added.

Watson called it an "historic day" for people in Ottawa who want to rid the city of gridlock, protect the environment and "ensure that we have the highest standard of quality of life in our nation's capital."

The city will be able to break ground on Phase 2 in spring of 2019, he added.

Discussed for decades

This funding has been discussed for years.

In 2015, the Conservative government announced "up to $1 billion" for Phase 2 in a letter to the mayor a month before the federal election was called.

During that same campaign, Trudeau personally called Watson at home one evening to give him a heads-up about the Liberals' infrastructure platform, as well as to pledge his support for Ottawa's LRT phase 2.

This announcement is different because it's actually real money.- Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson

"This announcement is different because it's actually real money," Watson told reporters. "It was a paper announcement by the previous government, nothing went through Treasury Board. Actually, the program announced by the previous government didn't even exist."

The city now has a formal letter of commitment from the federal government for the project funds.

Phase 2 expected by 2023

Earlier this year, Ottawa city council pushed ahead with Phase 2 of LRT, a $3.6-billion project that will see the system currently under construction extended east to Trim Road, west to Moodie Drive and Algonquin College, as well as south to Bowesville by 2023.

The price tag includes various add-ons, including widening Highway 417.

It will add 38 kilometres of rail, and 23 stations to the Ottawa's rail system. The city wants to award the contract by spring of 2018, around the time that Phase 1 should go into service.

Watson made a formal request to the federal and provincial governments for each to fund a third of the project — about $1 billion apiece — as well half the $315 million cost for the Trim Road extension and an airport link.

Justin Trudeau, centre, joined Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, left, and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, right, to announce a $1.28-billion federal commitment to an 'ambitious' rail project in Montreal Thursday. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Province's share already approved

The province's treasury board granted the city's request last year, but the city still doesn't have a so-called "green light letter," something the city will want ahead of next year's provincial election.

Premier Kathleen Wynne, in Ottawa on Thursday, told reporters she couldn't give a date for when she might deliver the signed letter or cheque, but added her government is working with the city to get it done.

No big surprise

Trudeau appears to be on an infrastructure funding roll this week, having announced $1.3 billion for Montreal's light-rail project on Thursday.

While cities including Ottawa and Montreal have been waiting for official approvals, the announcements may not come as a huge surprise because the Liberals have already promised to outspend the former Conservative government on infrastructure. The government has earmarked more than $180 billion for infrastructure spending over 12 years, starting in 2016.

And in the 2017 budget, the government promised to "support the next phase of ambitious public transit projects" with $20.1 billion of investments, mentioning Ottawa's Phase 2 project as an example.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plugs in the "O" logo of Ottawa's LRT system. (CBC)

Hope for more Ottawa-Gatineau integration

The presence of Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin and Gatineau-area Liberal MPs at the massive photo-op spurred speculation the announcement would include money for running light rail on the Prince of Wales Bridge.

That was not the case, but there does appear to more willingness for officials on both sides of the river to improve the connectivity of the two transit systems.

Watson joked that the big "O" — the logo for the new O-Train system — "doesn't just stand for Ottawa, it stands for Outaouais too."

Pedneaud-Jobin told CBC he attended the announcement "to symbolize that we need to work as a region." Last month, the two cities established a formal inter-provincial planning group for large-scale transportation projects.

About the Author

Joanne Chianello

City affairs analyst

Joanne Chianello is an award-winning journalist and CBC Ottawa's city affairs analyst. You can email her at or tweet her at @jchianello.