That commuter rail idea was subsequently squashed by a council led by then-Ottawa mayor Larry O’Brien in favour of a light rail system that Ottawa is still modifying today.
The journey until now has involved many changes, and is still a work in progress.
July 2006: Siemens-PCL/Dufferin signs a contract with city council, then led by Mayor Bob Chiarelli, for $778.2 million to build a light rail line from Barrhaven to the University of Ottawa. Around $400 million is coming from previously agreed-to provincial and federal funding for the project.
October 2006: Mayoral candidate Larry O’Brien asks Treasury Board president and Ottawa MP John Baird to review the light rail project. Mr. Baird agrees not to contribute the federal government’s $200-million share until the new council has a chance to review it.
November 2006: Mr. O’Brien wins the mayoral race.
Dec. 6 2006: Council votes to run the line to Bayview Station and remove the downtown portion, shaving $70 million, and study the possibility of a downtown tunnel to address concerns from merchants worried about the effect of light rail on their business. This change draws concerns from federal and provincial officials, who warn councillors that they must approve the contract change before releasing $400 million in funding. On Dec. 14, council votes down both rail plans, drawing the ire of Siemens.
January 2007: The Mayor’s task force on transportation begins work on a new light rail project. Its first report, Moving Ottawa, is released in June 2007. It recommends a downtown rail tunnel “to alleviate the current transit bottleneck downtown and build a more inviting streetscape.”
November 2008: City council adopts a new transportation master plan calling for transit to account for 30 per cent of rush-hour morning trips by 2031, up from 23 per cent today. The strategy for that includes the downtown light rail link.
May 2009: Council votes to extend the tunnel to Campus Station, extending it by 750 metres or 30 per cent. This will cost the city an additional $150 million.
September 2009: The City of Ottawa pays Siemens Canada and other plaintiffs $36.7 million in settlement after Siemens alleges wrongful contract termination regarding the previous line.
October 2009: A city cost and affordability study determines the light rail system can be implemented without any increases to taxes. It estimates the total cost will be $2.1 billion - $700 million more than expected. A third of the cost, or $735 million, will come from the tunnel. Other major costs include converting the Transitway to LRT ($540 million) and procuring a maintenance facility and vehicles ($515 million).
December 2009: The city completes a planning and environmental assessment, and in the coming months undertakes a geotechnical and hydrological investigation to gauge underground conditions. The province pledges $600 million for the new light rail plan. The federal government agrees to also spend $600 million, with the city funding the rest.
Sept. 2, 2010: City of Ottawa signs a deal with Capital Transit partners to perform preliminary engineering on the line. This is a joint venture including Morrison Hershfield Ltd., Jacobs Associates, STV Canada Consulting Inc., and URS Canada Inc.
July 2011: Firms are invited to apply to build the line through a request for qualification. City council alters the downtown route to run along Queen Street instead of Albert Street after hearing that a Queen Street route can have a shallower tunnel due to the soil composition.
October 2011: Three consortia are put on the short list: Ottawa Transit Partners (led by VINCI Concessions), Rideau Transit Group (led by ACS Infrastructure Canada Inc.) and Rideau Transit Partners (led by Bouygues Travaux Publics S.A.)
March 2012: The city decides to move a station previously planned for Confederation Square to another location closer to the ByWard Market, drawing protests from Elgin Street businesses and the Lord Elgin Hotel, among others.
December 2012: The city is expected to award the contract for building the system. Construction is scheduled to finish in 2017.