Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson wants to spend up to $2.5 billion to simultaneously expand the city’s rail system to the east, south and west by 2023, he announced in a major transportation speech Wednesday morning.
© File photo by Lois Siegel
Jim Watson is the Mayor of Ottawa.
Until now the mayor has only committed to building the initial spine of the city’s future transit system, a 12-kilometre light-rail line that would take a portion of the project through a tunnel underneath downtown.
Wednesday’s speech promises to add 35 kilometres and 19 new stations to that initial stretch, which the city refers to as the Confederation Line, within five years of its completion in 2018.
Instead of making each expansion a separate project, the plan would see construction of each line take place at the same time.
“We could go slowly and build each segment of the network over a protracted period of time, suffering wasteful and disruptive conversions along the way, or we could move ahead and use public transit to help define how we grow,” said Mr. Watson.
In the east, this would involve stretching Confederation’s initial boundary at Blair Road all the way to the Place d’Orleans shopping centre for $500 million. There would be three other new stations at St. Joseph, Jeanne d’Arc and Orleans Drive.
In the west, the mayor wants to build out the Confederation Line to Bayshore and south to Baseline Station near Algonquin College at a total cost of $1.38 billion.
In the south, the proposal would see the city add stations along the O-Train line for $100 million. This includes new stations at intervals along the existing line, such as at Gladstone Avenue, and extending it south to Bowesville Road close to the airport.
There would be an additional $500 million for the trains and expanded storage facilities needed to service the new line.
Mr. Watson’s speech provides some clarity to developers who have been hoping to receive more details about when the second phase of the city’s transit plans would be revealed.
Many of them are trying to decide how to incorporate the light-rail line into future development plans but still aren’t sure how or when residents will use the system beyond the initial 12-kilometre stretch.
The announcement about more money being spent on public transit will also be welcome news to the city’s construction companies, many of which are doing work on the Confederation Line.
However, the vision outlined on Wednesday morning has to clear a number of hurdles before the city can implement it.
Mr. Watson stressed, in his morning speech, that his plan is dependent on getting the necessary funding from provincial and federal governments. He didn’t say how much the city will need from those bodies in order to make the plan a reality.
The vision is also part of a broader city document, known as the transportation master plan, which still has to meet with council approval before it can be passed.
The city has already experienced a number of hiccups in trying to get approval for the stretch of light rail running west of Tunney’s Pasture.
The National Capital Commission has so far been unwilling to let the city use land for which it is responsible over concerns running light rail there will cut off residents’ access to the Ottawa River waterfront.
But Mr. Watson believes that once these issues are dealt with, the city will be left with a much better system. He points out, for example, that residents would be able to take transit to any of Ottawa’s major shopping malls and libraries.
He also promised that it would alleviate congestion during events, such as Canada Day, that are major tourist draws.