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December 24, 2012

New Ottawa light-rail build gets greenlight

OTTAWA

The first work on Ottawa’s new light-rail transit project will begin in about two months following a recent final vote of city council.

After years of sometimes-acrimonious debate on two different LRT plans, the final vote breezed through without dissent. The result had been a foregone conclusion since the elaborate unveiling of the plan early in December.

The plan calls for an east-west line along the existing bus transitway, with a tunnel under the downtown core. There will be 13 stations along the 12.5-kilometre route, and the cost will be $2.13 billion with the federal and provincial governments chipping in $600 million each. The city will foot the rest of the bill, using transit reserves, revenue from development charges, and its share of the federal and provincial gasoline tax fund receipts.

The project will be designed, built and maintained by the Rideau Transit Group, a consortium that includes Montreal-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin, as well as ACS Infrastructure, an international group based in Spain. Other members include EllisDon, Dragos Canada, Veolia Transportation services, and BBB Architects of Ottawa.

The first work will involve widening part of Highway 417, known locally as the Queensway, to provide for rerouting buses whose regular routes will be disrupted during LRT construction. And a maintenance and repair facility will be built — an important early stage, because that is where the trains will be assembled. Those trains will be provided by Alstom, a French multinational.

The project just approved replaces a project with a north-south alignment which had been approved in 2006, then scrapped by a new council headed by former mayor Larry O’Brien. Had it gone ahead, it would have been in service by now.

As it is, the new system will enter service in 2018. Beyond that, there is already debate over which of two extensions should come first: westward to Kanata, or eastward to Orleans.

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