ChAnCe missed to mArk LRT mile­stone

Mayor’s tweet of train trav­el­ling through down­town tun­nel seems un­der­whelm­ing

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - KELLY EGAN

The first LRT train trav­elled through the down­town tun­nel on the week­end, right to the edge of Tun­ney’s Pas­ture.

One would have thought, $2 bil­lion and five-plus years later, this would be cause for cel­e­bra­tion. Where was the mag­num of cham­pagne be­ing rap­tur­ously smashed on the bow (the bumper?) of the train — the rib­bon-cut­ting by Wat­son-Naqvi-Chiarelli-McKenna Inc., the ap­pear­ance of the town crier and Dave Smith?

In­stead, we had a tweet from the mayor on a Satur­day af­ter­noon. Then — hang on — some retweets!

This was a lost op­por­tu­nity, in other words. But this has been the story with the whole build­ing of the LRT. There has, I think, been a fail­ure to en­gage the pub­lic in pride-build­ing in the big­gest project the city has ever un­der­taken. Mass hu­mil­ity, dear­est Ot­tawa, is overrated.

You know, peo­ple love watch­ing things be­ing built. This is why they cut holes in hoard­ing when a high­rise goes up, be­cause ev­ery­one has a lit­tle kid in­side them. We want to see. When they did that rapid bridge re­newal on the Queensway, for Pete’s sake, they had to in­stall bleach­ers for all the cu­ri­ous.

Dur­ing tun­nel con­struc­tion, I won­dered why some­one didn’t mount a we­b­cam so we could peek at daily progress. Why not tell us how many feet they crunched through ev­ery day? Where was the boat­load of hoopla when the tun­nel was fi­nally fin­ished? I mean, I once watched an en­tire doc­u­men­tary on the mak­ing of the Chun­nel from Eng­land to France. Fas­ci­nat­ing.

Where was our riv­et­ing story of hu­man achieve­ment by mighty ma­chines? Un­told.

These peo­ple have ripped up down­town (for years), gummed up Scott Street (for years), rerouted our daily flow. Can’t we have the odd high-five?

Why, too, isn’t there a train­fac­sim­ile on dis­play some­where so peo­ple can at least have a look in­side?

(I see by the web — where we’re to learn ev­ery­thing — the train has 14 doors, car­ries about 300 but with only 120 seats and will travel an av­er­age of 35 km/ hour.) Why, too, isn’t there an LRT of­fice down­town that brags about the great stuff we’re do­ing, with models and mock-ups and an­swers to ev­ery ques­tion we might pos­si­bly have?

Oh, for the days of Guy Laflamme and his heart-stop­ping, fire-breath­ing Godzil­las to chase the bores away!

And it isn’t just me. Here was a fol­lowup tweet from Gra­ham Richard­son at CTV Ot­tawa to the tran­sit com­mis­sion boss, Stephen Blais: “How about al­low­ing a cam­era down there and we will do a live show? I have been ask­ing for months.”

In­stead we had this tweet from His Wor­ship: “An in­cred­i­ble and ex­cit­ing view from in­side the LRT tun­nel! A train has gone un­der­ground just af­ter uOt­tawa sta­tion, trav­elled through Rideau, Par­lia­ment & Lyon sta­tions and emerged at the West por­tal, just be­fore Pimisi sta­tion! It’s on it’s way to Tun­ney’s!”

David Jeanes is pres­i­dent of Trans­port Ac­tion Canada and a pretty wise man when it comes to all things rail. He agreed the city missed a chance to put on braggy boots and blast its own horn on the week­end.

“I agree. You’d think when there’s a good news story, it would be good to have the me­dia and the pub­lic aware of it.”

He’s been watch­ing the con­struc­tion of LRT pretty closely, partly by re­ly­ing on weekly up­dates from the Con­fed­er­a­tion Line web­site.

“It’s not re­ally en­gag­ing the pub­lic as well as it could. And I think for a project of this cost, you could cer­tainly af­ford to have a lot more pub­lic in­for­ma­tion.”

Af­ter the fi­asco of the Rideau Street sink­hole, one might have thought com­ple­tion of this tricky sec­tion — and the tun­nel it­self — would be a mile­stone worth a holler or two.

“The ac­tual day that they broke through was never an­nounced,” Jeanes said.

In the east end, he said, the Blair and Cyrville sta­tions are vir­tu­ally com­plete, as are the Belfast yards. Would it be so hard to have pub­lic tours one week­end? In 2017 we had Kon­tin­uum, af­ter all, dur­ing which tens of thou­sands man­aged to take an un­der­ground acid trip through the par­tially built Lyon sta­tion with­out ac­tu­ally per­ish­ing.

Pub­lic safety is ob­vi­ously an is­sue and there may be an abun­dance of cau­tion be­ing ex­er­cised by Rideau Tran­sit Group, which is build­ing the sys­tem under con­tract. It may suit them just to fin­ish the job and hand over the keys, for­go­ing the dog-and-pony part.

But a thing to re­mem­ber about a pay­ing au­di­ence: We love a dog, we love a pony, we don’t love a tweet.

You’d think when there’s a good news story, it would be good to have the me­dia and the pub­lic aware of it.

The city re­sponded to our in­quiries with the fol­low­ing state­ment:

“An O -train Con­fed­er­a­tion Line train was moved from the eastern align­ment to the west­ern end over the week­end. This move was part of the test­ing and com­mis­sion­ing of the train, tracks and guide­way. As test­ing sched­ules shift due to a num­ber of fac­tors, it was not pos­si­ble to hold a me­dia event at a pre­cise time. Test­ing from Tun­ney’s Pas­ture and the West Por­tal will now oc­cur on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, as has been un­der­way for sev­eral months from Blair to uOt­tawa Sta­tion.

The City of Ot­tawa and RTG are fo­cused on meet­ing the re­vised Rev­enue Ser­vice Avail­abil­ity date and launch­ing a re­li­able, ef­fi­cient and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly LRT sys­tem in Novem­ber of this year.

Up­dates on the progress of con­struc­tion and test­ing are pro­vided at the Fi­nance and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Com­mit­tee. The next up­date on the Con­fed­er­a­tion Line will be pre­sented on May 1, 2018.” — Steve Cripps, di­rec­tor, O -Train con­struc­tion To con­tact Kelly Egan, please call 613-726-5896 or email ke­gan@ post­media.com Twit­ter.com/ kel­lye­gan­col­umn

JIM WAT­SON VIA TWIT­TER

This was the view from in­side the tun­nel dur­ing the first test­ing of LRT train.

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