Finance committee approves tweaked LRT design

First, the city disagreed with the National Capital Commission on a western light rail transit plan. Then, a church congregation railed against their agreed-upon route. And now, neighbours near the proposed new Cleary Station are criticizing the design.

It has been a bumpy track for the 1.2-kilometre western leg of the second phase of light rail transit, from Dominion to Cleary Station. But the city is closer to smoothing it out, after a finance and economic development committee approved a tweaked design of Cleary Station on Tuesday.

City councillors will vote on the new plan on May 11. If approved, and if all the funding falls into place, it should be built between 2018 and 2023.

The new proposed route would run through a strip mall at 747 Richmond Rd., rather than tunnelling under the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa’s property on Cleary Avenue.

This bodes well for those church members who spent almost a year protesting the plan. They argued the construction noise and vibrations would negatively impact on the seniors living in a retirement home on their property.

But now, neighbours of the new proposed station fronting Richmond Road are worried about those same construction impacts.

Lawyer Mary Flynn-Guglietti, who represented the owners of the strip mall at 747 Richmond Rd., said the new route marked “a very quick change in direction” from the original light rail design proposed last summer. City staff unexpectedly announced the route change in March.

The business owners were planning to redevelop that site, said Flynn-Guglietti, but now they are “being forced to the table” to negotiate a price on the lands or face expropriation.

Randy Gordon, who lives in a condo at 727 Richmond Rd. argued that the train would run very close to the building and that the city’s realignment plans are confusing.

Ottawa city staff say workers will vigorously monitor the light rail transit construction. The rationale for the change is that the new station would front onto Richmond Road, which would make it more accessible and visible for cyclists and pedestrians.

Further, there will be a public consultation on a Richmond Road complete street connectivity study on June 4.

Beyond the western leg of LRT phase two, which extends to Bayshore, the finance and economic development committee approved two other changes to the eastern side (to Place d’Orleans). They are as follows:

Blair Road

Rather than build three new tunnels below Blair Road and two Highway 174 ramps, city staff are proposing a new LRT track that would run in tandem with the future Cumberland Transitway. It curves just north of the previously proposed track. This should decrease construction costs by about $4-5 million.

Montreal Station

The original plan included a raised track over Montreal Road and Highway 174. Staff recommend shifting the track over the median, and relocating the Montreal Station just above Montreal Road. This should cut down on $12 million in capital costs.

This article originally appeared on metronews.ca on May 3.