Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What if the Feds fail to invest in Ottawa's transit plan?

Despite assurances from city councillors that federal and provincial funding pledges are sure to come, the fact that neither higher level of government has guaranteed to fund a third of Ottawa's $4B transit plan inevitably raises some red flags for Ottawa's citizens.When the City of Toronto failed to receive federal funding for a public transit project in that city, they decided the city would pay the extra amount. The City of Ottawa, already stretched to the budgetary limits, wouldn't likely be able to do that--so where are we today?

The City of Toronto had co-ordinated a $1.2B purchase of streetcars from Bombardier, and had budgeted one third of the ($400M) from the city to be matched by each of the federal and provincial governments. Although Queen's Park was quick to offer their financial support, the federal government were not so quick to match because, according to Infrastructure Minister John Baird, the deal didn't qualify under the government's infrastructure program. So Toronto,. facing a June 27 deadline to secure funding, doubled the city's contributions to pay for a full two-thirds of the streetcar deal.

The City of Ottawa's transit plan is even more long-term than Toronto's, which was rejected by the feds because it wouldn't create jobs within two years--and Ottawa's transit plan may not even break ground within that time frame. The $200M both the federal and provincial governments have pledged and re-pledged to Ottawa transit (leftover from the cancelled north-south rail line) won't go far when measured against the city's projected $4B price tag, which many critics are saying will inevitably climb as previously unknown costs surface.

When should citizens in Ottawa become truly concerned about securing funding partners? Are you concerned at the moment?

What recourse would the city, already so heavily invested in this significant transit plan, have should either level of government fail to invest the requested one-third?


jm said...

Ottawa already has an agreement on it's projects under the 2-year federal Infrastructure Stimulus Fund. The transit plan funding would come from the Building Canada Fund which goes to 2017.

jm said...

"...on *its* projects..."

bouschie said...

While the City of Toronto didn't get funding for their streetcars from the Feds, let's not forget the billions being passed to them through Metrolinx and for their light rail projects under the Transit City name. I can only hope that Ottawa's much smaller $4 billion project gets funding.

Anonymous said...

The most likely funding scenario is that the feds and province will fund specific pieces of the transit plan based on cost and merit of that part of the plan. We are already seeing this with the funding of the Barrhaven Transitway extension and the Strandherd-Armstrong Bridge. The next part that will likely be funded will be the Bayshore-Moodie Transitway extension. The LRT portion of the plan is totally dependent on funding of the downtown tunnel. Once better cost estimates are in on the tunnel, we will see if the city can sell that project.