Which way will LRT run?

OTTAWA

TIM WIECLAWSKI/METRO OTTAWA
November 07, 2008
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A downtown tunnel’s likely to come first, but what gets built next will be the devil in the details when Ottawa reveals how it may construct its nearly $4 billion transit network.

Transportation chair Coun. Maria McRae said she’s expecting “a mixed reaction” to Transportation Master Plan recommendations that will be submitted on Monday to the transit and transportation committees.

Along with proposed new roads and pathways, the plan will outline what areas will be first to get light rail tracks. And while McRae suggested a tunnel would be a priority, she predicted people would be disappointed by what phases get done next.

“Unfortunately, Ottawa’s geography does not lend itself to an easy fix,” she said. “That north-south system, the corridor is a good one, but I don’t know if we can afford to build the north-south system right now based on ridership and government contribution.”

Securing the federal and provincial governments’ contributions will dictate which areas prevail, said Coun. Alex Cullen, who chairs the transit committee.

“Part of it is ‘what is in the first phase? So when we go to the federal government and say ‘it’s $1.8 billion, so we need from you $600 million for the first 10 years —that’s the tunnel and something,” he said. “That’s what we’re going to be deciding.”

A group of downtown business owners yesterday were urging council to ensure the tunnel is the first component of the plan, whatever the staff recommendations.

“What we’re saying is start from the downtown core and build out. We built the Transitway from the outside in and we have to make sure that we don’t repeat that error,” said Hume Rogers, coordinator of the Downtown Coalition.

Cullen said there will be lively debate over where tracks go first, even though that phase is still years away.

“Who’s the winner, who’s the loser? That’s one way of putting it. I don’t like it but if you wanted to be first and you’re not some people may think that you’ve lost something there,” he said.

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