Mayor wants to fund Bar­rhaven LRT eval­u­a­tion

With Stage 1 un­der con­struc­tion, Wat­son pre­par­ing for sub­ur­ban ex­pan­sion

Ottawa Citizen - - CITY - JON WILLING jwill­ing@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/JonathanWilling

Make room, Kanata. Bar­rhaven has be­come part the con­ver­sa­tion for a Stage 3 LRT ex­ten­sion.

Up un­til Wed­nes­day, Mayor Jim Wat­son had con­sis­tently po­si­tioned Kanata as the ob­vi­ous next stop for LRT once the first two stages of light rail are con­structed.

But the mayor, who’s also run­ning for re-elec­tion in the Oc­to­ber mu­nic­i­pal vote, said on Wed­nes­day it will be up to a fu­ture coun­cil to de­cide which sub­urb will be next to re­ceive rail ser­vice, po­ten­tially leav­ing the other com­mu­nity with a se­ri­ous case of train envy.

“What we’re do­ing now is we’re say­ing that we want to be ready for both pro­pos­als, both Bar­rhaven and Kanata,” Wat­son said, adding that he pre­vi­ously called Kanata the Stage 3 pri­or­ity be­cause the city had not yet done a study for Bar­rhaven LRT.

At a coun­cil meet­ing on June 27, Wat­son will ask for sup­port to spend prop­erty tax money on a study that would de­ter­mine how LRT could be ex­tended from Al­go­nquin Col­lege to Bar­rhaven, link­ing up with the rest of the Con­fed­er­a­tion Line net­work. The mayor’s mo­tion is backed by Bar­rhaven Coun. Jan Harder, who won sup­port last March to start study­ing the fea­si­bil­ity of ex­tend­ing LRT to Bar­rhaven.

Of course, the city hasn’t even fin­ished build­ing Stage 1 — the 12.5-kilo­me­tre LRT line be­tween Tun­ney’s Pas­ture and Blair sta­tion, through a down­town tun­nel — or started con­struc­tion of Stage 2, which will ex­tend LRT to Moodie Drive, Trim Road and Al­go­nquin Col­lege, plus ex­tend the Tril­lium Line to the Ot­tawa In­ter­na­tional Air­port and Riverside South.

Un­der the city’s trans­porta­tion mas­ter plan, a Stage 3 LRT ex­pan­sion wouldn’t hap­pen un­til af­ter 2031. The coun­cil elected on Oct. 22 will have the op­tion of up­dat­ing the mas­ter plan.

The Bar­rhaven co­nun­drum has be­come glar­ingly ob­vi­ous as the other sub­urbs are ei­ther on track for LRT or have been stud­ied for a rail ex­ten­sion.

Bring­ing LRT to Bar­rhaven would mean con­vert­ing the cur­rent rapid-bus route to rail, likely re­quir­ing un­der­passes or over­passes at in­ter­sec­tions. An en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment would pro­vide the con­struc­tion op­tions and costs.

The city would be­gin the en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment this fall and the study would take be­tween one to two years.

The en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment would cost about $1 mil­lion. The city would like the other lev­els of govern­ment to help pay for the study, but Wat­son said the city can also com­plete the study with only mu­nic­i­pal money if it has to. Wat­son has so far iden­ti­fied $336,000 in de­vel­op­ment charges and $234,000 from the tran­sit cap­i­tal re­serve to help pay for the study.

In a per­fect world, the city will one day have the fi­nan­cial means to ex­tend LRT to Kanata and Bar­rhaven at the same time.

Kanata has a short-term leg-up, since an en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment was re­cently com­pleted, con­firm­ing that a rail line be­tween Moodie Road and Hazeldean Road would cost about $1.85 bil­lion. The fed­eral Lib­er­als cov­ered half the cost of the Kanata LRT study.

It’s pos­si­ble that coun­cil will even­tu­ally have to de­cide which sub­urb will get LRT first: Kanata or Bar­rhaven.

“The new coun­cil will have to de­ter­mine based on the in­for­ma­tion we get back from the en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment which is the most ready to break ground in,” Wat­son said. “I have to be clear about this: we don’t have com­mit­ment from the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments for any­thing above and be­yond Phase 2. We want to be am­bi­tious and we want to make sure all parts of the city are served and that’s why this mo­tion is for­ward and I be­lieve there will be strong sup­port on coun­cil for it.”

Wat­son has also said re­fur­bish­ing the Prince of Wales Bridge, the old rail cross­ing over the Ot­tawa River, would also be part of a Stage 3 project.

Po­lit­i­cally, the stars might be align­ing for Bar­rhaven.

The fed­eral rid­ing of Ne­pean is rep­re­sented by Lib­eral MP Chandra Arya. Wat­son met this week with PC MPP Lisa MacLeod, who will rep­re­sent the rid­ing of Ne­pean in the Doug Ford pro­vin­cial govern­ment. She’s also a can­di­date for be­com­ing a se­nior min­is­ter for this re­gion.

“She knows the file well and cer­tainly she told me it’s also a pri­or­ity for her be­cause Bar­rhaven is an area of the city with the largest growth, but no ac­cess to light rail,” Wat­son said.

How­ever, Kanata has its own po­lit­i­cal clout, be­ing served by rep­re­sen­ta­tives who are in govern­ment power. The Lib­eral MP is Karen Mc­Crim­mon and the MPP-elect is the PC’s Mer­rilee Fuller­ton.

BRUCE DEACHMAN

Ot­tawa city coun­cil will even­tu­ally have to de­cide which sub­urb will be the first to get LRT ser­vice. “We want to be ready for both pro­pos­als, both Bar­rhaven and Kanata,” Mayor Jim Wat­son said.

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