Stage 2 rail contractors still on track despite pandemic, councillors told

Ottawa's director of rail construction assured councillors Tuesday that the pandemic hasn't caused any major problems that might delay construction on the second stage of the city's light rail network.

Alstom now manufacturing trains for Stage 2 LRT in Brampton, not Ottawa

Traffic will move to new outer lanes of Highway 174, possibly by November, so existing middle lanes can be torn down to make way for a new Montreal station. The LRT extension will travel along the median of the highway from this point to the end at Trim Road. (City of Ottawa)

Ottawa's director of rail construction assured councillors Tuesday that the pandemic hasn't caused any major problems that might delay construction on the second stage of the city's light rail network.

Several councillors on the city's finance and economic development committee had the same question for Michael Morgan: Is the $4.66-billion project experiencing delays due to COVID-19?

It's not surprising that council members would be preoccupied with timelines, given that the first stage of LRT, which opened one year ago, was 16 months behind schedule.

Rail bridges on the Trillium Line are being put in place across roads in the south end, including Uplands Drive. (City of Ottawa)

Kiewit and Vinci Group are supposed to extend the Confederation Line east to Trim Road by 2024 and west to Moodie Drive by 2025. SNC-Lavalin, which came under great public scrutiny when it was revealed it had won the Stage 2 contract despite failing to meet certain technical requirements, is supposed to extend the north-south Trillium Line to carry passengers to the Ottawa International Airport and Riverside South by 2022.

"Everyone's on board to deliver as required," Morgan reassured councillors Tuesday.

Morgan said unlike Stage 1, the city now has a dedicated team on the ground monitoring the contractors' progress.

"When they run into a hiccup, we're aware of what that hiccup is and we can stay on top of them to make sure they resolve that," he explained.

Key milestones still down the line

Morgan said he was pleased with how rail bridges on the Trillium Line had been erected this summer over several roads in the south end, and that crews had broken ground for a new station at South Keys.

For Morgan, the "crux" of that Trillium Line project will be the delivery of the Stadler FLIRT trains, but he said they still seem to be on schedule to arrive next year.

SNC-Lavalin recently broke ground for South Keys station, which will see trains arrive both from Riverside South and the airport link. (City of Ottawa)

In the east end, a key indicator he's watching for is the construction at the Montreal Road overpass, where the train will "fly over" the highway and begin following the median of Highway 174. He said that work is on track and traffic could be diverted onto new outer lanes by November.

In the west end, he's watching for progress on the tunnels, such as the cut-and-cover tunnel between Cleary and New Orchard stations.

Byron Linear Park near the future New Orchard station has been closed so contractors can get ready to excavate the cut-and-cover tunnel and station for the extended light rail line. (City of Ottawa)

Alstom trains now built in Brampton

Another important gauge is the delivery of Alstom's 38 Citadis trains for that east-west electric line.

Morgan said COVID-19 had caused a "stop and start" for train maker Alstom at its Brampton, Ont., plant where Stage 2 Confederation Line trains are now being manufactured.

It was the first time many councillors had heard that the trains were no longer being assembled locally, as Stage 1 trains had been.

Morgan said Alstom decided to move production to the Greater Toronto Area because it's building trains for light rail projects there, and it also wanted to focus on maintenance — not manufacturing — at the Ottawa facility.

When Stage 2 of Ottawa's light rail system is complete, there will be 41 station in all. The city is encouraging dense development around transit. (City of Ottawa)

About the Author

Kate Porter


Kate Porter covers municipal affairs for CBC Ottawa. Over the past 15 years, she has also produced in-depth reports for radio, web and TV, regularly presented the radio news, and covered the arts beat.

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