Volume 12 Week 5

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(Posted 3 p.m., Dec. 5)
Taxpayers off the hook for possible light rail cost overruns
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Ottawa taxpayers don't have to worry about light rail becoming a burden on their pocketbooks thanks to a provision that places the onus to pay for any possible cost overruns on the consortium that has been awarded the contract to design, build, finance and maintain the light rail project.

The Rideau Transit Group, which is a consortium of 14 different companies led by ACS Infrastructure Canada and includes SNC Lavalin, Ellis Don Construction and Alstom Citadis Transportation among others, beat out two other bidders in winning the $2.1 billion contract to build the Ottawa Light Rail Project. They've also been awarded the $220 million contract to widen the Queensway between Nicholas Street and the Split which will be needed when construction begins to convert the Transitway to light rail.

In making the announcement on Tuesday, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson assured Ottawa residents that the Confederation Line, as it has been officially named, will be completed "on time, on budget and with a fixed price".

The current project has been modified from what was originally proposed during the last term of council. It is slightly shorter and much shallower. The original plan called for a tunnel 10 stories below ground level. Under the revised project the tunnel will only be five stories below ground level. The changes were made to keep the cost within the original estimated figure of $2.1 billion.

The provincial and federal governments are contributing $600 million each to the project, leaving the City of Ottawa having to raise $900 million mostly through long-term debt.

Work on the tunnel is expected to begin in July and will take five years to complete. The city has received assuances from the Rideau Transit Group that the tunnel portion of the light rail line will be operational in time for the 150th anniversary celebration of Confederation in 2017. The remaining sections of the line, from dowtown west to Tunney's Pasture and east to Blair Road, will be completed by 2018.

The Blair Station will be built where the Blair Transit Station now sits. Visitors to the City of Ottawa website will no doubt be impressed to find out that the station's design will for "a seamless transfer" from buses to light rail. Whether or not this will be the case in practical terms, especially during rush hour, won't be known until the system is operational. It is also not clear what the city plans to do in terms of parking near the Blair Station.

Artist's rendition of the exterior of the future Blair Station which will be the eastern hub of the Confederation Light Rail Line. File photo

 


Artist's rendition of the interior of the future Blair Station. File photo

 


Artist's rendition of the future Blair Station at night. File photo

 

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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Posted Jan. 12



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