City of Ottawa staff are looking at possibly shortening the length of the light rail tunnel planned for downtown by almost a third to ensure the project cost does not go above the projected $2.1 billion price tag.
The entrance to the proposed downtown LRT tunnel. Image supplied
During a councillor's briefing on Dec. 21, staff said a modification may be recommended to see the planned Campus station at the University of Ottawa move above ground, which would shorten the planned 3.2-kilometre tunnel by 600 to 900 metres.
Currently, the plan is to have four downtown tunnel stations: two in Centretown, one at Campus and one at the Rideau Centre, with a western entrance east of Lebreton Station and an eastern entrance south of Campus Station, near Mann Ave.
City staff say one reason the shortening is being considered is that the first phase of geotechnical investigations found bedrock south of Laurier Ave. near Campus Station that is two to 10 metres deeper than first thought.
Moving the Campus Station to the surface could save money on work needed to cut through the bedrock, but city planners say it is too early to say whether the proposed shorter tunnel would save money overall.
Staff say once design modifications have been developed further they will present the options to council.
Cumberland ward councillor Stephen Blais said he still has concerns about the current light rail plan. He noted Orléans has one of the highest riderships in the city, and under the current plan, which stops at Blair Station, east end residents who work downtown will have to take a bus to the light rail, and those who work in Hull will have to take yet another bus after that. "It's just not ideal. The east end councillors will be working together to try and get rapid transit to Orléans as soon as we can."
He also noted fixing the 174/417 split is "a necessity," because once construction begins on the Transitway, buses will be diverted onto roadways or highways.