Ottawa

Halting LRT expansion 'absolutely asinine,' mayor warns

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has dismissed any suggestion the city hit the brakes on the multi-billion dollar plan to extend light rail transit to its farthest suburbs as "absolutely asinine."

Residents want Stage 2 to move ahead as planned, Jim Watson insists

Mayor Jim Watson met with Premier Doug Ford at Queen's Park in Toronto on Tuesday. (CBC News)

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has dismissed any suggestion the city hit the brakes on the multi-billion dollar plan to extend light rail transit to its farthest suburbs as "absolutely asinine."

Watson was at Queen's Park in Toronto on Tuesday to discuss funding for phase two of the LRT. The province has previously committed $1.2 billion for the project, but that was under the previous Liberal government.

Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford and Ottawa-area MPPs have said they support the LRT expansion, but the money has not formally been confirmed.

Cost increase 

The city confirmed the winning bidders for the massive project last week, but the cost has also risen by more than $1.2 billion from previous estimates.

Prior to his meeting with Ford, Watson said he wasn't planning to ask the provincial government for more funding now that costs have gone up. He said he was only seeking confirmation of the previously committed funding.

He said the previous estimates were only estimates and the city has since added additional components to the project.

"This is pretty typical in organizations when you go in and start dealing with a major construction project," he said.  

No reason to delay

Watson said any plan to delay or not proceed with phase two because the cost has risen would be a terrible mistake.

"You have to do phase two for the system to work, otherwise it is a stunted 12-kilometre system that is going to clog in the Tunney's Pasture area and at Blair station."

He said Ottawa residents were clear they want LRT to proceed.

"They gave me a strong mandate of over 71 per cent of the vote. My platform was to proceed with phase two," he said.

Watson was not available for an interview after his meeting with Ford, but said briefly to a CBC reporter that there was still a commitment to LRT funding from the province.

with files from Lisa Xing

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