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City unveils $3B plan for Ottawa's transit future
A new $3-billion vision for public transit in the capital calls for eliminating several road projects and building light rail in three phases over the next two decades.
City staff says the focus of the latest transit plan will be a downtown tunnel with a light rail link to Ottawa's east end at Blair station.
An expanded light rail network to the south will be built in phase two, without a link to the airport -- a decision fuelling questions about what will happen in terms of transit in the growing southern part of the capital.
Kanata also won't be serviced with light rail until 2031. If approved by the National Capital Commission, light rail would run on the Western Parkway. If not, Byron Avenue is the second choice.
The plan also includes the possibility of rail on Carling Avenue and $500 million in improvements for bus transit.
"The last system was flawed. This system has withstood open and transparent review and criticism and I think it's stood tall; it's stood like the right answer," Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien said on Monday.
Paying for transit
The multi-million dollar price tag for the plan, though, has some wondering if the city can afford to move ahead.
"If we don't have the kind of funding that we're hoping for from the federal and provincial governments, a lot of these projects won't be able to get started so I think we do need a Plan B," said Coun. Steve Desroches.
Others are throwing around the possibility of garnering financial support from the private sector.
Councillors offer mixed opinions
Despite hammering down on the expenses, the plan also received mixed opinions from councillors on its vision for transit.
"I'm quite happy with supporting moving in this direction. I think it's important that we pool together and say we need to get started on something," said Coun. Marianne Wilkinson.
Others have their own ideas about Ottawa's transit future. Councillors Clive Doucet and Christine Leadman say they will release their own plans next week.
"The temptation is to give up. You know, the temptation is to lie down and say I can't take it anymore and sign off on it. And I was almost prepared to do this, but this system is so bad -- you can't do that," said Doucette.
Even if the plan is approved, it will still be years before the first phase of the project is complete.
"You're probably looking at 2017 before people are riding from Blair station through the tunnel to Tunney's. That's optimistic," said city manager Kent Kirkpatrick.
As it stands, the latest master plan for transit may be stalled even before starts. It still has to be approved by committee and council.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Catherine Lathem