Monday, October 26, 2009

Transit plan first phase price tag climbs to $2.1B

Tentatively predicted to run the City of Ottawa $1.8B, it turns out the more realistic cost estimate for the first phase of Ottawa's ambitious transit plan is around $2.1B, according to
Light rail between Blair Road and Tunney's Pasture, including a three-kilometre downtown tunnel, will cost $2.1 billion, city staff estimated Friday. That's $400 million more than their December 2008 estimate and $300 million more than the estimate in the city's recent funding request to the federal and provincial governments.
In initial discussions of potential direction for Ottawa's transit plan, the above-mentioned first phase of the was estimated to cost $1.4B. In recent weeks, reports indicated it would climb due to unforeseen design changes and land procurement costs. After a more thorough examination, which included consultations with "experienced firms involved in transportation and tunnelling projects" and a review, according to the above-linked CBC story, seems likely to be the best estimate, which City officials will present when appealing to federal and provincial governments for funding.

Although federal officials have been rather quiet in awaiting an official request with hard numbers, Ontario Municipal Affairs Minister and Ottawa West-Nepean MPP Jim Watson has for weeks been announcing his concern with the affordability of Ottawa's transit plan. This past weekend, as reported in the Ottawa Citizen, Watson re-iterated his concerns:
"I'm becoming increasingly worried about the city's capacity to bring this project to a conclusion," said Watson, the MPP for Ottawa West-Nepean. "We're very, very concerned. I have to simply question the affordability of this plan."


"They've designed the plan without an upper-limit budget. The price just keeps going up," said Watson. "We cannot simply send a blank cheque to the City of Ottawa."
Although Watson is concerned with the city's ability to pay for its third of the transit plan, the recently-unveiled $24.7B provincial deficit in Ontario, which will undoubtedly affect the province's ability to offer cash to municipalities. The deficit is the largest the province has ever carried, according to the Ottawa Citizen. The City is looking for at least one-third of the capital cost of the project from each of the provincial and federal governments, meaning $700M from each level over the course of the first phase.

Funding partners--including, albeit on a smaller scale, citizens of Ottawa--are all likely mindful of the (mostly negative) perceptions of staff and decision makers in this city, which combine to make what Steve Collins refers to as a "trust deficit" in the Ottawa Metro. That scepticism certainly shines through in Watson's comments. It remains to be seen what federal ministers, particularly Ottawa West-Nepean MP and Infrastructure Minister John Baird, have to say about the recently-announced cost increase.

City staff are convinced that Ottawa can foot their portion of the transit plan.

The cost for the full four-stage transit plan is now an estimated $6.6B, up from the initially-predicted roughly $5B price tag.


Anonymous said...

Yow. An estimated cost of $5 billion is now $6.6 billion? That's a 32% cost overrun before a shovel's has even touched the ground.

Granted, the initial estimated weren't supposed to be detailed, but it's unfortunate that the estimates were off by close to 1/3.

Dean said...

I'm let with the impression that their are some on council that intentionally drag their feet knowing it will increase the cost and make it easier to kill. They will never find a plan that is cheap and provide complete city wide access in the short term. But once the process is started in earnest the quicker we will have a city wide access.

Expansion can be sped up or slowed down as needed. But not until we really get started.

Some people need to realize we are not a small town. And if we don't get a real grip on transit we will just wind up with a urban wasteland. All across North America you can find communities where central urban cores are dying and people are in perpetual traffic just to do the most basic things.

It is far easier to ask people to wait for expansion when they know it is actually coming.

WJM said...

Look at the electoral map of the city. It's dominated by car-dependent suburbs.

I was reading one of the community papers tonight, in which Rick Chiarelli is pushing the idea of a BIA for Bells Corners, because - paraphrasing slightly - he wants it to be a place that people drive to not, drive through.

This is the same idiot who can't see the problem with the lack of shelter and convenience at the "temporary" Baseline Station that is probably going to be a lot less "temporary" than anyone will admit.

Thirty, almost forty years of official plans in Ottawa keep calling for the same thing: a move away from cars, towards foot and transit. And nothing ever happens. The car people keep winning. And they always will.

Hell, at the rate things are going there will be a Montreal banlieu train to/from Ottawa before there is rail transit within Ottawa.

Dean said...

These are also the same car dependent suburbs that have a problem with building ring road. They voice the same kind of complaints that they use for public transit.

Anonymous said...

I speak to people about the bus service on a daily basis and I find it hard to believe how apathetic the Ottawa public is about the new transit proposal. Most people know very little about it and have no opinion whether they want it or not. People should have more of an opinion, in my opinion!