The light rail line is part of an ambitious $2 billion transit plan that includes a light rail line to the south end, expansion of the existing transitway and a downtown tunnel.
The plan was introduced at a joint meeting of the city’s transit and transportation committees that was supposed to look at short term solutions to the city’s transit problems.
Instead, a group of councillors led by Steve Desroches and Jan Harder introduced their own plan which has the support of Mayor Larry O’Brien and transportation staff.
The new plan is similar to the one that was passed by city council during the North-South LRT debate last December and shelved a week later when the federal government and the province refused to endorse it without reviewing it first.
Ironically, the estimated price of the new plan is about double that of the controversial North-South light rail plan championed by former mayor Bob Chiarelli and which ultimately led to his electoral defeat.
There are three major differences, however. The first is that it calls for improved mass transit service to the south end which may included light rail in the future. The other two differences are the east end light rail component and the downtown tunnel.
According to the plan that was put forward last December, the South Innes light rail line would be built in three phases.
The first phase, which does not require an environmental assessment, would extend from Trim Road through Avalon to Navan Road. When the plan was first unveiled last December, staff estimated the engineering and design work for the first phase would take two years to complete.
The second phase of the plan would connect the South Innes transitway to the Blair Road transit station which would require a separate environmental assessment.
Staff estimate the EA could take between 18 months and two years to complete, after which the engineer and design work could begin.
The thrid and final phase would see the transitway converted to light rail and extended downtown.
Within minutes of its release some councillors and other stakeholders were already raising concerns about the new plan including Innes Ward Coun. Rainer Bloess, who told the Ottawa Citizen that it was too vague and too similar to the one rejected by council last year.
“I think this needs to be a lot more fleshed out,” he said. “There are too many questions that need to be answered before I can support something like this.”
The plan must still be approved by council and it is contingent on financial support from both the federal and provincial governments.