After reading David Chernushenko call the proposed tunnel in Ottawa's transit plans a "waste of money," don't think there's consensus on that. Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi thinks that it is--potentially--a good idea.
Tunnel is a good idea, downtown streets are extremely congested, no doubt. But I think we have to wait until the environmental assessment [is completed] to see whether it's doable or not. I have been reading a lot of different things as to the kind of rock formations downtown is located [above], it's sort of elevated, we need to see that it's something that is doable. So it will be too premature to say “I like it” or “I don't like it” without knowing the full technical details and without knowing the bill associated with it.Of course, Naqvi stipulates that the city needs to do its due diligence before investing time, money, and manpower in a tunnel, including an environmental assessment. According to National Resources Canada, the city of Ottawa's geology is a layer of gravel, sand, silt, and clay overtop of limestone, sandstone, and shale; tunnelling through such soft formations, especially when surrounded by large buildings, would likely not be easy (although I'm no geologist). I's sure a tunnel boring machine that satisfies Ottawa's geology can be found, however.
Geological questions aside, Naqvi does make a good point about bus congestion. Along the downtown leg of the Transitway, there is little to no room remaining for expanding bus service with the density of buses already present, and as ridership continues to rise more service becomes necessary. Ridership rose another 0.8% in 2007 according to OC Transpo statistics (.PDF) and another 4.4% in the first half of 2008, according to the Ottawa Citizen.
Is going underground the answer? Chernushenko thinks it's misguided and unwarranted. Naqvi thinks it's a good idea, as long as it's physically and financially reasonable. What do you think?
ADDENDUM: Further to the discussion about the subway's environmental assessment, the Ottawa Business Journal printed a story a few weeks back with information about Delcan Corporation, the firm selected to complete the process, which is expected to take roughly 20 months.
Part five of Yasir Naqvi on Public Transit in Ottawa, a TransitOttawa.ca exclusive:
Part One: Introduction
Part Two: Effective Public Transit
Part Three: Provincial Funding
Part Four: The Cancelled North-South Line
Part Five: Subway is "a good idea"
Part Six: Rail on the Ottawa River Parkway
Part Seven: Bi-Provincial Partnerships