Ottawa’s 12.5km long Light Rail Line, that includes the 3.2km long twin-bore Downtown Tunnel, received a major boost yesterday following an announcement by the Federal Government that it will contribute US$572M towards the US$2bn project’s realization, matching the finances allocated to the project by the Provincial Government on December 18th 2009.
“With this funding, I expect that the city will work towards a practical and affordable plan to serve the needs of the residents of Ottawa,” said federal Transport Minister John Baird in a statement.
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Ottawa’s taxpayer will be looking at an US$850M shortfall to plug. Deputy Treasurer for the City of Ottawa, Mona Monkman confirmed the project’s affordability, saying, “The city can afford $900M (US$850M) and we don’t anticipate a tax increase as a result of this project.”
Transit committee chairperson, and candidate for Mayor in the next election, Alex Cullen, who also said the city can cover the shortfall, was rigid in his support of the controversial tunnel section of the line, viewed by many locals as an economic burden with its estimated US$700M+ price tag.
“All the players are aware that all the approvals for the light-rail project are based on the tunnel. If you wanted to take out the tunnel it will mean the whole process has to start again,” said Cullen, “To drop the tunnel means going back to square one, and there’s no appetite for that.”
His views were echoed by current Mayor, Larry O’Brien, who said that the line’s master plan could be modified, but that the tunnel is “non-negotiable.”
The Downtown Ottawa Transit Tunnel (DOTT) Planning and Environmental Assessment (EA) Study is currently being reviewed by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. It is anticipated that their review will be completed this month.
Meanwhile, geotechnical work began in early May. This involves the collection of detailed data about the subsurface conditions along the tunnel portion of the LRT route. The data collected will be used to advance Preliminary Engineering, scheduled to begin in July 2010.
Property Acquisition work is underway and a progress report will be issued later this year. Work is also underway to determine the optimal procurement model (from Construction Only to full Private Public Partnership) for the project.
Preliminary design work could begin this year with construction beginning in 2013. Initial construction will centre on the tunnel and underground stations, with the Light Rail Link scheduled for completion by 2018 – 2019.