STO eyes options for new tram line connecting Gatineau to Ottawa

Tram / LRT
Gatineau transit officials have compared their vision for an electric tram to the light-rail vehicles used in Waterloo, pictured above. (Photo by Sean Marshall / Flickr)

A new underground tunnel in downtown Ottawa for electric trams could be part of a plan to expand transit service to bring commuters from the rapidly growing communities in west Gatineau across the Ottawa River.

Gatineau transit officials provided a public update Friday on the city’s ongoing studies to add more capacity to the interprovincial transit network by running an electric tram across the Portage Bridge.

The Société de transport de l'Outaouais says two options for integrating the new rail line with OC Transpo’s light-rail network are being considered:

  • Running a surface line along Wellington Street, in front of Parliament Hill; and
  • Sending trains through a new tunnel beneath Sparks Street.

Both options come with advantages and disadvantages. A tunnel is costly, but would avoid service disruptions on Wellington Street caused by protests and other events around Parliament Hill.

Prior to COVID-19, approximately 3,500 STO passengers crossed the Portage Bridge during the morning rush hour daily. That’s expected to at least double over the next 15 years. Transit officials say putting more buses on the region’s interprovincial bridges and downtown streets to accommodate those passengers would overwhelm the road network.

There is not yet an estimated cost of the project.

The STO says Gatineau and Ottawa residents will have an opportunity to weigh in next month during public consultations.