Feds back stage two LRT ahead of formal funding agreement

Ottawa’s stage two LRT is picking up steam with some extra help from the feds.

The city will get $45 million for preliminary engineering work as part of a $155.9-million federal funding package for public transit projects, as well as $1.25 million to separate the O-Train and VIA Rail tracks in time for 2018, the government announced Tuesday.

The funding will help the city "follow the timeline they’ve set for stage two," said Brook Simpson, press secretary to infrastructure minister Amarjeet Sohi, who couldn’t be reached Wednesday.

It’s also a load off property taxpayers’ backs, according to Mayor Jim Watson, who said these early costs were largely covered by the city during stage one.

Despite obvious support, there’s still no formal agreement from the federal Liberals to cover one third of the $3-billion project.

The massive expansion would extend light rail service to Bayshore, Orleans and Riverside South.

But Mr. Watson said he has “absolutely no reservations” that the Liberals will cover their $1-billion share.

He’s had promises in writing and in person from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and local MPs. With Tuesday’s announcement, Watson said he’s even more assured.

“The very fact that they’ve actually put a significant amount of money down for the pre-engineering work is another indication that the commitment is there,” Mr. Watson said.

City officials want an agreement this year so they can award a contract in 2017.

Mr. Watson said he “sees no reason” why an agreement won’t be signed in 2016.

This article originally appeared on metronews.ca on August 24.