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.