UPDATE: ACS, SNC Lavalin and EllisDon to lead LRT construction

The city unveiled its preferred bidder to construct Ottawa’s $2.1 billion light-rail line, giving local construction firms and suppliers a point of contact for winning a piece of one of the most lucrative infrastructure projects in the municipality’s history.

The consortium known as Rideau Transit Group, led by Toronto-based ACS Infrastructure, won out over the two other bids that had been shortlisted for the contract. Engineering firm SNC Lavalin, construction company EllisDon Corp. and Ottawa-based BBB Architects are also part of the group.

The 12.5-kilometre light-rail line will provide more than 3,200 years of direct trades employment, Mayor Jim Watson said in an announcement at City Hall. This will be part of the more than 20,000 years of employment the city says the project will create for people in Ottawa.

Much of the work that will need to be done is still up for grabs, and members of the winning consortium say they will be looking to local firms to do a lot of the heavy lifting over the estimated five-year construction period.

“The majority of the physical work that’s done on any project is performed by subcontractors, upwards of 90 to 95 per cent,” said EllisDon vice-president Mark Fazio.

“None of that work has been committed, so ... there’s immense opportunity for members of the local community to become involved in the project itself.”

EllisDon is already familiar with many of the firms in the Ottawa area, said Mr. Fazio, whose firm is also involved in the project to redevelop Lansdowne Park. However he urged other subcontractors that haven’t worked for them in the past to get in contact with them if they are interested in doing some of the work.

Rideau Transit has committed to complying with regulations that mandate transit vehicles contain 25 per cent domestic content, but hasn’t yet figured out a road map for how it’s going to get there.

“We’re going to do our best to ensure that the bulk of the work is done locally,” said Mr. Watson.

“We believe we have the work force that’s available here, it’s skilled, and we also have the suppliers that are available so that we’ll see the majority of the work being done right here by Ottawa residents.”

The trains for the light-rail line will be assembled in Ottawa. This will create about 200 jobs, said Rideau Transit spokeswoman Lecia Stewart.

Businesses ranging from heavy construction companies tasked with moving earth, trucking materials and making concrete to chip wagons providing food for workers during construction are supposed to benefit.

The announcement of the contract comes at a good time for local construction firms, said Dale Harley, a spokesman for the Ottawa Heavy Construction Association. Many companies “ramped up” their capacity to take advantage of millions of dollars of federal, provincial and municipal infrastructure funds designed to stimulate the economy during the recession.

The city estimates the project will generate $3.2 billion in economic activity.

“There will be a substantial amount of work for those heavy firms that were partners or contractors or subcontractors on the project,” said Mr. Harley, adding that he expects the LRT project to have a greater local economic impact than either the stimulus program or the current municipal infrastructure spending program, dubbed Ottawa on the move.

The light-rail system will be called the Confederation Line and include 13 stations between Tunney’s Pasture in the west and Blair Station in Gloucester in the east. It also includes a 2.5-kilometre tunnel beneath downtown.

A city committee will vote on the staff proposal on Dec. 12 before it goes to city council a week later on Dec. 19.

A series of public consultations are also scheduled to take place around the city up until the final vote. The first will take place at City Hall this week.