Ottawa LRT: Another missed deadline — and many questions hang in the air

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Artist’s rendering of a completed Rideau Station.

In news that should surprise nobody who had been paying attention, the City of Ottawa revealed Monday that the Confederation Line won’t be ready in 2018 at all. Instead, it should be operational in Q1 2019.

John Manconi, OC Transpo general manager, told councillors at Ottawa’s finance and economic development committee that the firm building the line, Rideau Transit Group, is unlikely to deliver the line by Nov. 2. RTG will be penalized $1 million for failing to do so.

Instead, RTG is optimistic it will be able to hand over the system by Nov. 30. While it is a difference of just a few weeks, this means the city will not be able to finish necessary testing of it until after the new year — meaning transit users will not be riding the trains until sometime between January and March 2019.

The reaction was volcanic.

“I’m pretty angry right now,” Coun. Stephen Blais, transit commission chair, was quoted by the Ottawa Citizen as saying. But, as the Citizen reported, the shock was not shared all around.

“Some councillors, like Coun. Diane Deans, said they saw another delay coming. Deans said she’s been “doubtful” with constituents about the Nov. 2 handover,” the Citizen story said.

The Bulldog, a city hall blog run by former Citizen journalist Ken Gray, ran the headline: “This Is Bad, Really Bad.” Gray noted “it was becoming obvious just by walking past stations that the November deadline would not be met.” A photo released by the city of Rideau Station, appearing far from completion, seemed to back that statement up.

Inside Rideau Station, released by the City of Ottawa Sept. 10, 2018.

(As Spencer Callaghan tweeted, who didn’t see this coming?)

Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper tweeted: “Jaw dropping news.”

And finally, the pun we’ve all been needing.

The news left some questions in the air — not least of which is “when will city taxpayers will get the transit system they’re paying more than $2 billion for?”

Councillors are FEDCO offered some more Qs up — what will become of OC Transpo drivers who have already been notified their jobs are being eliminated? (The answer is that their layoff date will be pushed back until after the new year.) Coun. Catherine McKenney wanted to know if some of OC Transpo’s bus route changes, which were enacted to prepare for LRT, could be reconsidered in light of the delay. Coun. Diane Deans raised the question of how this will impact the upcoming review of the city transportation master plan.

These and other good questions will hopefully see some answers soon.


Devyn Barrie

Devyn Barrie is the editor of OttawaStart.com and its sister site StittsvilleCentral.ca. He has a journalism diploma from Algonquin College and has lived in Ottawa most of his life. Twitter: @DevynBarrieNews.

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