Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ottawa eyes LRT tunnel option

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Canada’s national capital Wednesday unveiled plans for a downtown tunnel to serve light rail transit, a plan backed by city business interests and some city council members, but questions remain about LRT’s exact routing.

A two-mile twin-tunnel LRT line would stations at LeBreton, Downtown West, Downtown East, Rideau Centre, and the University of Ottawa. The tunnel is part of a planned 7.8-mile line, expected to cost $C1.4 billion (US$1.2 billion). Ottawa expects funding assistance from Ontario province and the federal government.

The current proposed alignment could miss portions of the downtown business district, running too far north, some business leaders said. Rather than turning north beginning at Kent Street, the route should continueunder Albert Street for three additional blocks, before turning north at Metcalfe Street, according to Hume Rogers, representing the Downtown Coalition.

Despite concerns, Rogers said the coalition believes the LRT tunnel plan is “light years” ahead of the city’s former surface rail plan. That plan was opposed by downtown property owners, prompting a newly elected city council elected in 2006 to scuttle the proposal.

Ottawa city officials say the current plan’s proposed turn beginning at Kent Street avoids sharp turns, thus offering a more pleasant ride and reducing wheel squeal and wear.