Monday, September 13, 2010

Can we afford the downtown tunnel?

abandoned subway in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Questioning Ottawa's ability to fund our current $2.1B light-rail transit plan, and particularly the $735M, 12.5 km tunnel portion of it, is nothing new. Although the financing of it has been priced out by city planners, critics--perhaps with good reason--question those plans, and particularly question the accuracy of the city's cost estimates.

One of those critics is recently-announced mayoral candidate (and former regional chair) Andy Haydon. Virtually since the plan was first accepted by council, Haydon has criticized the idea--a bus-rapid transit man, Haydon thinks the city would be better served continuing to improve our BRT system, instead of pursuing LRT.

Haydon recently made his thoughts quite clear in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen:
"Is it affordable? No. What will happen is they'll get halfway through it and they'll run out of money," says Haydon, who makes no secret of his preference for bus transit.
So we've got a few different viewpoints on the issue.

But what if Haydon is right? What if the city begins the project, starting with the tunnel (which is the projected start-point) and then, due to rising costs or falling revenue sources, can no longer fund the project?

Well, we wouldn't be the first city to run into this problem. We might end up with a system like the Cincinnati Subway, a line built at the beginning of the 20th century in the American city that whose tunnel was finished, but the money ran out before any rail was put down, or any riders actually used it. The tunnels look eerily abandoned, but are still maintained today and used for water lines in the city. Similar ghost-tunnels can be found all over: The New York Subway has some abandoned stations, and apparently Calgary even has some abandoned (or at least unused) tunnels for their C-Train line.

And unfinished tunnel projects go back through human history, even to ancient Egypt. A tunnel in the tomb of pharaoh Seti I runs 174m before construction abruptly ended when, according to National Geographic, the pharaoh died.

Obviously, the hope is that if Ottawa moves forward with a tunnel, it won't turn into a 'tunnel to nowhere' or to a modern brother to the Cincinnati Subway. Planners, councillors, and city staff mostly seem confident it won't, so we'll see, I suppose.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

"city staff mostly seem confident it won't, so we'll see, I suppose"

But that's the thing!!....
we can't just say "we'll see"....it's either "yay" or "Nay"
if it's a "Nay", then SAY SO RIGHT NOW, AND SPARE THE CITY YOUR INCOMPETENCE, AND OUR TAX DOLLARS, WHILE YOU STILL CAN.

IF IT'S A "YAY", THEN YOU NEED TO PROVIDE IN DETAILS, THE EXACT COST, TIME FRAME, AND HOWS, WHENS, WHATS AND WHERES, AND STICK WITH IT TO THE END, FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE.

I've seen the videos of the Tunnel and although I'm not a fan, considering by the time I get to the actual subway line, I probably would have missed at least two rides, but I do believe it's necessary considering Ottawa's congestions. On the other hand, Whoever is going ahead with this tunnel, better DAMN WELL make sure s/he FINISHES it WITH THE ENTIRE PROJECT INTACT. Otherwise, it's going to be a scandal of a galactical proportion for the entire city Councel.

I cannot for the life of me understand how can a Tunnel cost 2.1 billion dollars of our hard earned money, anyways. Someone is selling us a lemon with a gargantuan profit.

all the while, China, which we consider a "Developing" country, is building a high speed rail, linking China to Europe, as well as the Middle East within 2 Days!

extending almost 5000 KM, passing through dozens of cities, and multiple countries, within 2 hours!....Care to guess how much this project will cost?....2 Billion US!!- and get this! it will take them 10 years to build it - 5000 KM worth of rail, for the exact same cost it's taking us to dig a tunnel INSIDE a city, INSIDE a Province INSIDE a country, with an 18 KM LRT, on handful of stations, that does not extend to the Suburbs (or even the Airport, for Chrissakes!).

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/china-business/7985812/China-to-build-2bn-railway-for-Iran.html

Anonymous said...

Umm, while I do find the price of the project excessive, your choice of comparison is horrible.

1. China has extremely low labor costs vs Canada
2. Safety regulations in China are lower and they don't care about disrupting businesses the way we do. We should do cut and cover.
3. (TOP REASON) The 2.1 billion cost that is mentioned to US for the LRT includes the price of the trains and their maintenance for i believe 20 years. The Chinese figures do not include these costs. A single Velero train (the ones they use now) by Siemens is in the 100 million CAD range to buy.
4. Building in straight lines in the country side on flat land is much cheaper than building in an urbanized area.

You should compare the costs to Western European and American project instead, such as the Stuttgart plan in Germany or the new high speed rail lines in Belgium and France.

The recent high speed rail line between frankfurt and cologne is a much better and valid comparison. It cost 6 billion euro (just under 10 billion dollars) for 177 km and a max speed of 300km/h. This again is WITHOUT the train sets to be used on the track.

Go do some valid comparisons before you talk.

Anonymous said...

Here a link about the cologne-frankfurt high speed rail line in Germany.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cologne-Frankfurt_high-speed_rail_line

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