City to appeal agency's order to replace ripped-up rail

The City of Ottawa is appealing a federal agency's order to restore, sell or scrap a portion of rail line near the Prince of Wales Bridge, and the mayor is asking the federal transport minister to step in.

Mayor Jim Watson asking transport minister to intercede in squabble with federal agency

The City of Ottawa is appealing an order by the Canadian Transportation Agency to either sell a portion of the rail line leading to the Prince of Wales Bridge, or restore the tracks. (CBC)

The City of Ottawa is appealing a federal agency's order to restore, sell or scrap a portion of rail line near the Prince of Wales Bridge, and the mayor is asking a federal minister to step in.

As part of light rail construction, the city removed a section of the line north of Bayview Station

The Canadian Transportation Agency's (CTA) mid-February decision would force the city to either put the line up for sale, which could lead to its permanent closure if no buyers come forth, or restore it to a state where it could be re-opened to rail traffic within 12 months.

Given until the end of April to respond, city officials had said they would likely appeal the decision, which they saw as the agency going too far.

In a memo Tuesday, Mayor Jim Watson said the city has started filing an appeal with the Federal Court of Appeal.If approved, that appeal process could take a year or two.

Watson told reporters later that day he doesn't think the agency's decision is fair.

"We have every intention of using that bridge … we believe it's in [our] best interest that we don't go spend money now when we're not ready for that service to go," he said.

"We want to get service to Kanata as Phase 3A [of the light rail network], as I call it, then Phase 3B would be to Gatineau."

Request to cabinet

Watson also said he's written to federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau to request a review under Section 40 of the Canada Transportation Act, which gives the federal cabinet the power to change or throw out an agency ruling.

"You can certainly appreciate the City's surprise and disappointment in being asked to make this unfortunate 'either or' determination at this point in time," Watson wrote in the letter, which was attached to Tuesday's memo.

"Particularly, it appears that the CTA has rendered its decision without taking into account the ongoing discussions between the cities of Gatineau and Ottawa, as well as with local Members of Parliament, with respect to the future potential use of the [bridge] in connecting our two transit systems."

Watson wrote it would take two to three years to get the bridge ready, rather than the 12 months imposed by the agency, and he said he doesn't believe are any viable groups with enough money to run rail over the bridge.

A group called Moose Consortium Inc. has submitted plans for a rail line over the bridge that would go around Bayview Station and service outlying communities such as Smiths Falls, Casselman, Arnprior, Montebello and Wakefield.

That group reported the rail line's removal in 2016 to the CTA, and claims it can pay the $50 million it estimates it will take to fix the bridge.

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