From wings to rail

LRT to the air­port is an eco­nomic booster Ot­tawa can’t do with­out

Ottawa Business Journal - - GO GLOBAL -

When­ever he vis­its another city such as Van­cou­ver, Mark Laroche takes rapid rail transit from the air­port to his des­ti­na­tion.

It’s fast, it’s con­ve­nient and it’s a hall­mark of a truly world-class city.

“This is a vi­tal piece of in­fra­struc­ture that Ot­tawa should have as the cap­i­tal of a G7 na­tion,” said the Pres­i­dent and CEO of the Ot­tawa Air­port Au­thor­ity.

A Light Rail Transit link to the Ot­tawa Air­port’s main ter­mi­nal as part of the Phase 2 build has long been on the ta­ble, but get­ting it done is far from as­sured.

Fi­nal­ized City of Ot­tawa staff rec­om­men­da­tions for a south­bound ex­ten­sion of the ex­ist­ing O-Train line were pre­sented to the City’s trans­porta­tion com­mit­tee in June. A spur line that would con­nect to the air­port’s ter­mi­nal is among those rec­om­men­da­tions, but this, along with the rest of the Phase 2 plan, can’t pro­ceed un­til suit­able fund­ing is se­cured from the other lev­els of gov­ern­ment.

Ot­tawa Mayor Jim Wat­son has al­ready stated that a spur line to the air­port can’t be a bot­tle­neck for daily com­muters, or a cost that is shoul­dered en­tirely by the city.

Which is fine by Laroche. His team un­der­stands that the needs of the col­lec­tive must come first and it’s ready to work with the City on a cre­ative way that would al­low the Air­port to con­trib­ute to the cost of the pro­ject in some fash­ion.

“The Air­port Au­thor­ity, how­ever, should not be foot­ing the bill, any more than any other busi­ness en­tity in the city would be ex­pected to carry the cost of new in­fra­struc­ture that serves the com­mu­nity,” Laroche said.

The Au­thor­ity al­ready does its part by pay­ing its mu­nic­i­pal taxes, em­ploy­ing 5,000 peo­ple with plans to grow and hire more, and pay­ing about $8 mil­lion a year to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment through its lease of lands from Trans­port Canada.

It’s about the lo­cal econ­omy, not the air­port

“We are a pri­vate not-for-profit cor­po­ra­tion, a tax-pay­ing eco­nomic gen­er­a­tor that serves the whole city,” said Laroche. “An LRT con­nec­tion to our ter­mi­nal doesn’t pro­vide any fi­nan­cial ben­e­fit to the Air­port Au­thor­ity, but it would for the com­mu­nity as a whole with more trans­porta­tion op­tions to and from the air­port.”

Bet­ter trans­porta­tion links to the air­port will pay div­i­dends for the city’s tourism in­dus­try and the meet­ing and con­ven­tion busi­ness—pri­or­ity ar­eas for City Hall and Ot­tawa Tourism.

And now is the time to get it done, to take ad­van­tage of the economies of scale and cost sav­ings that come of be­ing part of a larger pro­ject that al­ready has shov­els in the ground.

“I hope the city will con­tinue to sup­port this pro­ject and not carve it off,” Laroche said. “I am con­fi­dent that Mayor Wat­son and City Coun­cil will con­tinue to sup­port this pro­ject as an es­sen­tial part of LRT Stage 2 and that both the pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments will sup­port it fi­nan­cially `If we miss this op­por­tu­nity, we miss out at pro­vid­ing world-class in­fra­struc­ture for a world-class city. I don’t want to be an air­port that is still try­ing to get this done 20 years from now and lag­ging far be­hind other Cana­dian and North Amer­i­can cities.”

Laroche and his team are primed and ready to work with the City to get the pro­ject done in a man­ner that is prac­ti­cal, eco­nom­i­cal and, most im­por­tantly, fair, for all stake­hold­ers.

“A busi­ness case built on rid­er­ship with the air­port and South Ot­tawa works,” he said. “If it didn’t, we wouldn’t be in­volved with this pro­ject.”

“If we miss this op­por­tu­nity, we miss out at pro­vid­ing world-class in­fra­struc­ture for a world-class city.”

-- Mark Laroche

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