Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The after-effects of the cancelled O-Train extension raise their head

The arguments for cancelling the north-south extension of the O-Train are well-understood by this point: Questions about the suitability of surface-rail downtown; questions about the bidding process, and what was costed where; questions about the rapidly rising pricetag; and questions about whether to start north-south instead of east-west were all brought up, and all have their own merits.

Similarly, arguments against cancelling the project are well-known by this point, and have merits of their own: A development built around transit, instead of the other way around; a project that would be done by now; a fixed-price contract that would have controlled costs; and other infrastructure (the Strandherd-Armstrong bridge, in particular) also being done by now.

The immediate repercussions of the cancellation was a lawsuit from the consortium hired to build the project, which was eventually settled for about $37M when all was said and done. But the repercussions of the planning decisions that had been put in place with an understanding of light-rail south towards Barrhaven and Chapman Mills weren't all cancelled with the project, and they continue to be seen today, as demonstrated in an article in Saturday's Ottawa Citizen about a traffic light in Chapman Mills, but which is really about more than that. From the Citizen's article:
“This community was being built while the LRT contract was being signed, and it was built with the LRT at the centre of it. It really is a community that is now haunted by the decision to cancel the LRT,” [councillor Steve Desroches] said. “That said, we have to pick up the pieces and move on.”
The area in question, Chapman Mills, is an interesting development. [Full disclosure: It also happens to be where I live, although I moved in with full knowledge that the train had been cancelled.] A triangle of land bounded by Fallowfield Road to the north, Prince of Wales Drive to the east, and Woodroffe Avenue to the west, it's different from older 'traditional' suburban development thanks to a fairly high population density, with terrace and townhomes at least as common as single-family homes. And nowhere will this stark difference be more apparent than in the forthcoming Ampersand development by Chapman Mills, billed as "urban development in a suburban setting" by representatives of the developer. The area is still well-served by bus infrastructure--and the new Southwest Transitway Extension through the Riocan Marketplace will only improve that--but one can only imagine how positive a light-rail line from the area right into downtown would be for the residents, as well as for the environment (courtesy of a few thousand single-commuter vehicles or a few hundred buses off the road).

And given the work that's already been done securing rights-of-way from Bayview to the area, it seems like a prime candidate for the second phase of the current light-rail project.

No comments: