Ottawa council approves second phase of light-rail transit plan

Light rail

The $3.6-billion second phase of Ottawa’s light rail transit is moving full steam ahead.

City council approved the plan on Wednesday, after each councillor had a chance to weigh in on the massive project.

“We’re building farther, faster than anyone thought possible six years ago,” said Mayor Jim Watson.

Watson called for co-operation among regions — west, east and south — to make the system work and turn “Ottawa the old to Ottawa the bold.”

Stage 2, expected to be completed in 2023, would bring 70 per cent of Ottawa residents within five kilometres of light rail.

Stage-2-map_0.pngThe project will expand the Confederation Line west to Bayshore and east to Trim. The Trillium Line will extend south to Bowesville and include a link to the Ottawa Airport. Widening the Highway 174 in the east end is also part of the project.

The city is still waiting on a funding announcement from the federal government, but Watson said he has been assured it will be announced before the end of May.

While the council vote was unanimous, several councillors spoke of concerns in their wards.

Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson said she was “holding her nose” to go through with the vote.

“I still am not happy that you’re sending it all the way through Orleans before you even get to the edge of Kanata,” she said. “We need to look very hard at how we can get to the other areas because the west end is growing very quickly now.”

Gatineau connection

While Ottawa’s light rail system will expand east, south and west in the next six years, there are no plans to send it north, into Gatineau.

Not yet.

On Wednesday city council directed staff to formalize talks with Gatineau politicians about using the Prince of Wales Bridge as a rapid-transit conduit between the cities.

“So many people live in Ottawa and work in Gatineau and vice versa," Watson said. "It just makes good sense,” 

Currently around 60,000 commuters travel between Ottawa and Gatineau on a typical weekday. That demand is expected to increase by 65 per cent by 2031, according to the city.

Unlike the LRT projects already underway, a light rail line to Gatineau would cross an interprovincial border. It would also require more funding from the federal government, Quebec government and Ontario government.

Funding a northern connection to Gatineau is not part of the city’s financial plan, but Ottawa did purchase the Prince of Wales Bridge with that purpose in mind.

“The message is that we want to see if Gatineau is interested it that conversation because it would be bringing one of our trains onto their property,” said Watson. “We need to make sure that Gatineau is on side and it’s realistic to ask the federal government for support.”

This article originally appeared in Metro News.