Over the course of the 2010 Mayoral Election campaign, Public Transit in Ottawa will be sitting down with as many mayoral candidates as are available, discussing their platforms and thoughts on transit in this city, and what they hope to achieve during their mandate, if elected mayor.
Although Mike Maguire doesn't feel that light-rail transit in itself isn't affordable for Ottawa, he does feel that the current electric light-rail transit plan, including the downtown tunnel, won't work for Ottawa. He's proposed his own alternative: A hypothetically cheaper, commuter-driven diesel light-rail transit system, instead.
We can’t possibly afford the downtown Ottawa tunnel. [...] The downtown Ottawa tunnel and the LRT are proposed at $2.1B, which is a class-D estimate—which is plus or minus 25 per cent; it won’t be minus—so you’re looking at, realistically, it could be as high as $2.6B; if the present estimate of work is very precise and the only variable is cost, you’re looking at $2.6B. And there’s every opportunity for that to go much higher. Certainly, in terms of large infrastructure projects in the City of Ottawa, we would normally say a factor of 40 per cent would be reasonable for cost overruns in Ottawa. Round numbers, though, I don’t want to be too unfair to council, to staff: Let’s say it’s $2.5B, so the city has to borrow $1.3B, after we get $600M from the province, $600M from the federal government, so the difference is $1.3B. So $1.3B is going to be funded through the gas tax rebate.
Above the initial construction cost, though, Maguire has concerns with operating costs. Based on an average annual operating cost at 18 per cent of the purchase price (which Maguire said was a generally accepted principle--I can't really confirm or deny it), Maguire suggested operating costs for the electric LRT system would be in the range of $4-500M per year.
If you look at it operationally; as monumental as the purchase price is, operationally, it will exceed that in seven years. So yes, $2.5B is a whack of money, but within less than a ten-year period, that will be distant cousin to what we’re going to spend operationally. We don’t have that kind of money.