City staff recommend against connecting LRT to Kanata Research Park

March Road light-rail station
A rendering of the proposed March Road light-rail station.

City staff are recommending that a future extension of Ottawa’s light-rail line in the west end bypass the Kanata Research Park and instead follow a “central spine” that largely follows Highway 417 to the Canadian Tire Centre before travelling south to Hazeldean Road.

Shovels won’t be hitting the ground on the $1.85-billion, 11-kilometre extension any time soon. The city is still tendering the second phase of Ottawa’s light-rail network, which will extend the line west to Moodie Drive and Algonquin College, south to the airport and Riverside South, and east to Trim Road in Orléans. And city staff say the Kanata LRT link is currently beyond Ottawa’s “2031 affordable rapid transit network plan.”

However, the city undertook a study of potential routes to examine how the project could be implemented in sections if and when funding became available.

In a report being tabled at the city’s transportation committee on Wednesday, staff argue that running rail along March Road through the Kanata Research Park and then out via Terry Fox Drive towards Palladium Drive would result in higher construction costs and longer travel times for other commuters.

Staff say this would potentially result in lower overall ridership and conclude there’s “no net benefit” to routing the rail line into the high-tech hub.

Instead, staff say the site can be served with feeder service to the main LRT line. While that means buses for now, the report imagines autonomous vehicles eventually whisking high-tech workers from the business park to the light-rail line.

The Kanata North Business Association has long lobbied for better transportation links to the research park, arguing that congestion and poor road conditions hurt the area’s image as a world-class tech hub.

While Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson previously mused about a spur line extending into the Kanata Research Park, she was cited in the staff report as supporting the proposed route alignment.

Proposed LRT Kanata route

Staff say they examined 13 potential corridors before arriving at the recommended route, which they say will bring 90 per cent of Kanata residents within five kilometres of rail:

  • Travelling along the north side of Highway 417 from Moodie Station, with stops at March Road / Eagleson Road, the Kanata Town Centre and Terry Fox Drive;

  • The line then curves to the north, with stations at Didsbury Road and, one kilometre west, Campeau Drive;

  • The rail corridor then turns south along Palladium Drive, with stops at the Canadian Tire Centre and Maple Grove Road before terminating at Hazeldean Road.