Private sector to play greater role in LRT construction

Peter Kovessy
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The city hopes greater private-sector involvement in the construction of Ottawa’s light-rail line will allow passengers to start riding trains a year earlier than initially planned.

An artist's conception of a light-rail stop at Hurdman Station. (Provided)

Under a new schedule released Friday, some parts of the 12.5-kilometre, 13-station line would be available for testing in July 2017.

City staff are proposing shortening tendering and moving up construction timelines on the $2.1-billion project in order to meet the earlier date.

Passengers will not actually ride the rails until 2018, although the system will be available for tests and tours the year before.

Part of the motivation behind accelerating the project came from Canada's 150th anniversary in 2017, at which point the city would like to have the construction mostly cleared away to make way for celebrations.

City staff are proposing to transfer more risk to the private sector by asking a contracting consortium to take on more responsibilities in the construction process.

Bidders would be asked to design, construct and maintain the light-rail line, which the city says would give contractors more flexibility and lower costs.

“The supply of materials, the actual construction, and the start up and commissioning of the entire system (will be) sought in one single competitive process,” city staff say in a report.

“The contractor provides a firm lump-sum price and a guaranteed completion date for the entire project.”

This design-build model contrasts with a more traditional design-bid-build methodology, under which the city undertakes the entire design and asks contractors to price the construction of that exact design.

City staff says that model “tends to be highly prescriptive and does not maximize value of large integrated projects of this type.”

As part of the accelerated timeline, the city would release prequalification documents later this month, five months ahead of schedule. Interested bidders would have until August to form consortiums and complete their qualification submissions.

The actual request for proposals would be released in stages, starting this October.

A final contract would be awarded in December 2012, rather than June 2013.

Provincial funds for widening of Highway 417 have helped accelerate the timeline, the staff report added, since buses can be rerouted on to the Queensway from the Transitway during construction.

When completed, the 12.5-kilometre line will run between Blair Station to Tunney's Pasture.

It will include a 3.2-kilometre tunnel between Lebreton Flats and the University of Ottawa campus with four underground stops.

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