Ottawa approves Stage 2 LRT, turns to planning Gatineau crossing

Even as Ottawa city councillors voted Wednesday to approve a sweeping, expensive plan to extend light rail east, west and south by 2023, they were already contemplating the next stage and finally connecting the rail system to Gatineau in the north.

Jim Watson gets go-ahead to start formal talks with Gatineau about rail link over Ottawa River

The City of Ottawa says an ad seeking proposals to convert the Prince of Wales Bridge "from a rail facility to a pedestrian and cycling link over the Ottawa River" was posted prematurely. (CBC)

Even as Ottawa city councillors voted Wednesday to approve a sweeping, expensive plan to extend light rail east, west and south by 2023, they were already contemplating the next stage and finally connecting the rail system to Gatineau in the north.

Councillors gave Mayor Jim Watson a mandate to start formal talks with his Gatineau counterpart in the hope of speeding up plans to convert the old rail bridge over the Ottawa River to light rail.

"This is something that has been talked about for a couple of decades," said Watson.

"The reason why a previous council bought the Prince of Wales Bridge was ultimately to connect to (Gatineau's) transit system because so many people live in Ottawa and work in Gatineau, and vice versa. It just makes good sense."

But the file has been a complicated one because it entails two cities and two provinces, in addition to the federal government. The plan on the books has been to create a pedestrian bridge until the crossing could be used for transit more than a decade from now.

What's changed, Watson suggested, is that federal Liberal MPs in the region are very interested in linking the two cities' transit systems.

Watson underlined that the city still doesn't have the money to extend the O-Train to the Taché station of Gatineau's Rapidbus system, but the city wants to lay the groundwork in case money becomes available and the project could happen in the next five to seven years.
In the second stage of Ottawa's LRT project, tracks would extend to Moodie and Baseline in the west by 2023, Trim Road in the east by 2022, and to the rural south and Ottawa airport by 2021. (City of Ottawa)

Council OKs $3.6B Stage 2 LRT procurement 

The main discussion at council Wednesday led council to approve the second stage of its light rail project, to begin construction after the downtown line opens in 2018.

"The plan with Stage 2 is the largest and the most extensive and detailed infrastructure work program in the history of the City of Ottawa," said the city's transportation general manager John Manconi as the discussion began.

Most councillors took time to thank staff for all their work, and while councillors supported the project overall, some had outlying concerns.

Kanata-North's Marianne Wilkinson, for instance, was disappointed Orléans will see light rail when Kanata doesn't even have a rapid bus line yet, but said she would "hold her nose" and vote for the extensions.

She said she was hoping for a "golden tree to provide the funds" to take light rail out to Kanata, given the city has sped up the environmental assessment for it.

College Ward's Rick Chiarelli reiterated his concerns about transparency. He's suggested the expropriations and land transactions the city will undertake for Stage 2 should be public and not left to an audit after all deals are finished.

Riley Brockington urged the city to spend as much as possible of the $10 million set aside for public art on local artists.

The plan is for the city to put out requests for proposals by late May, but it must still secure more than $1 billion in federal funding — or tendering and construction could be delayed, said the mayor.

The provincial funding was lined up last June.

Councillors also made minor tweaks to the sprawling Stage 2 plan, such as asking staff to look into building a park and ride lot at the future Moodie station and building public washrooms in the Place d'Orléans station.

The motion to give the mayor a mandate to start talks with Gatineau about improved transit linkages:

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