City closes stage 2 LRT deal with SNC-Lavalin subsidiary amid ongoing scrutiny

Gladstone
A rendering of Gladstone Station, slated for the second stage of Ottawa's light-rail transit line.

The City of Ottawa has closed the first of two deals to extend the forthcoming light-rail transit line even as councillors continue to express concerns about the decision-making process for the massive procurement project.

The city said Friday afternoon it reached financial close with TransitNEXT, a wholly owned subsidiary of Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin, to extend the north-south Trillium Line to Riverside South as part of the second stage of Ottawa’s LRT.

The fixed contract for the southern extension is priced at $663 million, though the city says that the full value of the deal, including maintenance and rehabilitation on the existing Trillium Line track, is $1.6 billion. SNC-Lavalin will pay $136 million in upfront capital contributions.

Before the city was able to sign on the dotted line, it had to finalize funding agreements from both the federal and provincial governments. While the federal commitments had long been public, it wasn’t until last Friday that Ontario Premier Doug Ford officially announced the province would contribute $1.2 billion towards the transit project. A memo from the city states both funding deals were signed earlier this week.

Though council approved the $4.7-billion worth of contracts for LRT’s second stage at a March 6 meeting, councillors have continued to petition for further transparency in the procurement process.

Capital Coun. Shawn Menard gave notice earlier this week that he’d like to have the auditor general investigate the decision-making process on stage two in light of allegations that SNC-Lavalin’s bid did not meet the minimum technical score for the project.

Phase two will see the Trillium Line extend 16 kilometres past its current terminus, Greenboro Station, to Limebank Road in Riverside South, with an additional eight stations and a link to the Ottawa International Airport.

Work on the southern extension is expected to begin in the coming weeks, with construction wrapping up by 2022. The city is expected to reach financial close by the end of April on an agreement with the consortium of Nebraska’s Kiewit and France’s Vinci to extend the LRT to Moodie Drive in the west and Orléans in the east.