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Three important stories about Ottawa LRT this week

Recent photo of coupled train testing on the Confederation Line, via City of Ottawa rail office.

A controversy over the Trillium Line extension contract involving SNC-Lavalin, the province commits $1.2 billion for Stage 2 work, while train testing picks up. Here’s a summary of the week in LRT.

Contract controversy

I noticed this week that Joanne Chianello at CBC Ottawa had been quiet for a little while, with her Twitter feed mostly retweets and the last article published on March 9. I figured she was either on vacation or working on something. It was the latter.

On Friday CBC published this article saying SNC-Lavalin got the Trillium Line extension contract despite not getting the city’s minimum technical score for the job.

“Sources with direct knowledge of the Stage 2 evaluation process told CBC that SNC-Lavalin failed to achieve the minimum technical score of 70 per cent, a requirement set out in publicly available documents,” her article says.

Usually in public procurements, not meeting the technical score would disqualify a proponent from receiving a contract. It’s not clear how SNC-Lavelin got this contract without meeting the requirement. City council approved the contract on March 6 and the deadline to sign it is the end of the month.

The question of whether the Montreal engineering giant hit the 70 per cent score started with Coun. Diane Deans. At city council on March 6, she pressed Chris Swail, director of O-Train planning, about it. Swail would only say that all proponents went through the screening process and declined to confirm or deny SNC-Lavelin met the minimum score, citing commercial confidentiality.

The fallout from the CBC story will continue to play out and should be a topic of discussion at the next city council meeting, per Coun. Jeff Leiper.

Plus, Jon Willing at the Citizen floats the possibility of the city’s auditor-general looking into the contract.

Stage 2 funding from the province

Premier Doug Ford was in town Friday, backed by an LRT car with his slogan “for the people” running across its ticker, to announce $1.2 billion in funding for Stage 2.

The total budget for the project is $4.65 billion, via funds from the city, province and federal government. The feds committed their $1-billion contribution in 2017.

Stage 2 will expand the Confederation Line west, from Tunney’s Pasture to Moodie and Algonquin College, and east from Blair to Trim. The project also includes an expansion to the Trillium Line further south from Greenboro to Limebank, plus a spur to the airport.

End-to-end testing is ongoing

The city has been picking up with its testing of trains on the Confederation Line.

“In the coming weeks, end-to-end train testing will continue and more coupled trains will be seen on the move,” says a weekly blog update from the city rail office, posted on Thursday.

Mayor Jim Watson told CTV this week he suspects the line will be ready sometime in Q2, noting that progress is being made with construction.

“The testing’s gone very well, the occupancy permits are being issued quite frequently (at) our stations. The system is looking good,” Watson said.

The city’s rail blog says finishing touches are being done at most stations and there will be many more coupled train practice runs to come.

Watson said there would be a more detailed update at the city’s next finance and economic development committee meeting on April 2.


Devyn Barrie

Devyn Barrie is the editor and owner of OttawaStart.com. He holds a journalism diploma and a certificate in pre-technology from Algonquin College.