Wednesday, January 13, 2010

City approves $2.1B transit plan

Ottawa City Council voted strongly in favour of the $2.1B light-rail transit plan, including light-rail rapid transit from Tunney's Pasture station through a downtown tunnel and onto Blair Station, by a count of 19 in favour and four against. The plan will now move forward with environmental assessments before construction ultimately begins.

The overwhelming tone of the meeting was strong support. Somerset Councillor Diane Holmes was anxious for the street-level rejuvenation it could offer particularly to Albert and Slater streets, currently used as bus-rapid transit corridors. Bay Ward Councillor and mayoral candidate Alex Cullen offered his thanks to the councillors, committee members, and city staffers who'd put time into the project before stating his excitement at having given yet another show of support for the project. The final member of council to speak on the matter was Mayor Larry O'Brien, who offered his thanks to councillors and staff for moving forward with the plan, and especially highlighted the 2006 Report from the Mayor's Task Force on Transit and having achieved one of its major recommendations.

Although only four councillors were against the plan, they voiced strong opposition to it. Capital Ward Councillor Clive Doucet was vehemently opposed, declaring his long-standing criticism against a plan which, in his opinion, "is the wrong project, in the wrong place, for the wrong cost." Knoxdale-Merivale Councillor Gord Hunter was concerned that, by his estimation, all this plan guaranteed suburban commuters is a transfer which they don't have to deal with currently.

The City, which has already received a pledge of $600M from the Province of Ontario, will now officially request funding from the Federal Government. Should the Federal Government match the provincial funding amount, the city will be left with the remaining $900M remaining for the total $2.1B price tag on the project. It is unclear whether or not the City will work on funding more than the anticipated one-third of the project, or whether they will try and tweak the specifics of it to bring the total cost closer to $1.8B.

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