'Take advantage of the timing': Hull-Aylmer MP wants Gatineau to jump on Ottawa tramway idea
Proposed tramway would run from Gatineau to Ottawa over Prince of Wales Bridge
The timing has never been better to invest in a tramway running between Ottawa and Gatineau, according to Hull-Aylmer MP Greg Fergus, who also wants to see that tramway connect to Ottawa's new light rail system.
Fergus spoke Monday evening at a public transit forum he helped organize to kick off a week focused on sustainable transportation in Gatineau.
He wants the tramway to connect the fast-growing Aylmer neighbourhood to downtown Gatineau at the Canadian Museum of History, with possible connections to fast-growing neighbourhoods in the Plateau as well as a route over the Prince of Wales Bridge to Ottawa.
"This is an opportunity to take advantage of the timing," said Fergus, highlighting the perfect storm of recent federal and provincial funding opportunities, along with an impending plan by Gatineau's STO (Société de transport de l'Outaouais), to improve service to western Gatineau.
The STO has already invested $250 million to build up its Rapibus system serving the Hull neighbourhood and eastern regions of Gatineau.
There would be a cost to waiting, according to the MP, with the possibility of missing out on the federal government's infrastructure program, which commits 50 per cent of the financing for public transit projects.
"The timing is right for having some big ideas on public transportation," Fergus said. "All these things coming together makes it the right timing for us to have this kind of debate."
Gatineau mayor a long-time tram advocate
Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin said he's been calling for a study on a rail system since he first came to office.
The federal and Quebec governments' commitments to lowering greenhouse gases means the city will likely be going to rail in the long run, he said, so it may not make sense to continue expanding the Rapibus system through Aylmer.
"If we go for buses, will we have to dig it up again in 25 years?"
Questions about the costs, however, dominated questions from audience members taking part at the standing-room-only forum.
Pedneaud-Jobin said that while rail is more expensive to build, it's cheaper to operate, though cost will be a preoccupation if the STO studies the issue further.
An inter-provincial tram
Fergus would like to see the tramway connect Ottawa and Gatineau using the existing Prince of Wales Bridge, which was once an active train bridge but is currently not being used.
The 2013 update to the City of Ottawa's transportation master plan mentions the bridge as the potential site for a future cycling and pedestrian bridge. Fergus would like to see a future tram use the same train technology as Ottawa's light rail system so the two systems can connect right at the future LRT system's junction with the O-Train.
"The Prince of Wales Bridge has a train track on it which is not being used right now that would connect directly with one of the hubs for the Ottawa system."
Pedneaud-Jobin said he's already been speaking with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson about using the Prince of Wales Bridge and making the two systems fit together.
"Our goal is that the planning for main infrastructure is together."
Residents attending the Monday night forum agreed with the idea of making the two transit systems work together.
"For anyone who lives in Ottawa-Gatineau, to think of these two cities as two distinct entities makes no sense," said resident Frederic Julien, adding that the extension of light rail to Ottawa over the Prince of Wales Bridge seems like an obvious choice.
"Everyone has everything to gain by doing this."