Friday, July 8, 2011

Mayor Announces LRT Changes; Budget Stays The Same

Mayor Jim Watson announced on Thursday afternoon that Ottawa's light-rail transit project will proceed on time and on budget thanks to a few positive changes to the route of the downtown tunnel.

The major change to the plan is that it will now tunnel underneath Queen Street rather than the diagonal path across the downtown core. The Queen Street tunnel will also be four storeys underground, instead of the ten prescribed under the former routing. With these changes, the Mayor said that the project is still estimated at $2.1B, even with inflation since the original estimate. CBC reports that the city will award a contract in December 2012 and the project is expected to be completed by 2018.

A Queen Street tunnel will mean less construction disruptions on Albert and Slater. With the old plan, the tunnel would have crossed Albert and Slater, which likely would have caused disruptions to transit and car traffic.

CBC says that the shallower station in the tunnel will allow transit riders to descend to the platform in under a minute. Otherwise, with the 10-storey tunnel, passengers may have taken more than two minutes to get to the platform. This will certainly save money, construction time, and passenger time. The four-storey tunnel is now a feasible option due to the city finding some stable rock closer to the surface.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, major stations may have themes in their designs:
"The city also released more details of plans for particular stations Thursday, including the idea that several major stations could have “themes” guiding their designs. The LeBreton Flats station would contain elements honouring Algonquin culture, for instance and the “Downtown East” station at Queen and O’Connor would have elements celebrating Ottawa’s role as Canada’s capital."
The theme designs will make the light rail stations more interesting to look at than the present stale red transit stations. Adding a distinctive look to each major station will also make it easier for transit users to identify the station in crowded trains.

The Mayor's announcement of these changes, while maintaining the budget, is good news for Ottawa transit users and taxpayers.

No comments: