Funds Lining Up for Bank Street O-Train Tunnel?

The Bank Street O-Train Tunnel concept from Billings Bridge to Parliament Station which continues to gain support throughout the city may have found financial support.

The provincial Ontario government of Premier Doug Ford announced a budget with $61.1 billion for funding public rail transit projects. The money will be available to spend over 10 years. The money can be used for “major subway construction” according to the Progressive Conservative government budget statements upon release of the budget, an Issues Advisor for the Ministry of Transportation told me some of it can be used as “funding for City of Ottawa projects such as the Ottawa LRT”. So the question remains, can the Ottawa Bank Street O-Train Tunnel get into the Transit Master Plan?

Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau announced last year the government of Canada will spend an additional $14.9 billion over the next eight years on public rail transit projects across the country. To access the federal funding you need agreement between provinces and municipalities . The government of Canada’s long term plan is the creation of a permanent transit fund of $3 billion per year starting in 2026. Prime Minister Trudeau stated when we invest in public rail “transit infrastructure, we are supporting good middle class jobs, creating better commutes, fighting climate change, and helping make life easier and more affordable for Canadians.”

With growing support for improved North/South transit on Bank Street from Ottawa city councillors Catherine McKenney & Shawn Menard; and local provincial MPP Joel Harden speaking out in favour of Bank Street rail transit, “the debate on Bank Street electric O-Train needs to continue — we need to deal with the climate emergency and rail transit, if done right, it can be part of the solution.” As Harden points out the “electric O-Train expansion into downtown along Bank street would absolutely have lots of benefits for transit accessibility, reducing car usage and improved biking and walking infrastructure in the core while helping our local businesses prosper.”

It appears stars are aligning for supporters of the Bank Street O-Train Tunnel. Universities, local business, and tourism industries have also expressed support.

The idea of a 4.5 km Bank Street O-Train line which has captivated people throughout the city, was the clear winner from a recent Ottawa poll. Results were overwhelming showing support for the Ottawa Bank Street O-Train line with over 50% support. The Bank Street O-Train line had more then twice the support of the next closest choice.

The city of Ottawa has been dealing with tremendous growth in the Bank Street Communities with large construction of towers being planned at Lansdowne 2.0 which is going to create additional densification on Bank Street. The Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group is expecting see large and consistent traffic at Lansdowne as the city begins to exit the COVID19 global medical pandemic with Ottawans returning for sport events and concerts.

The recent announced large scale developments happening around Billings Bridge Shopping Centre is going to add a lot of people into the core of Ottawa and there is a rumour that Billings Bridge Shopping Centre itself might be completely redeveloped. The Greyhound Bus Terminal will have large towers constructed and many other projects are underway at Slater, Albert, and throughout the rest of Bank Street Communities with some buildings being 65 floors in height.

Former Mayor Larry O’Brien says “it’s important Ottawa plan for the future, to meet the needs of the people instead of just developers. The Ottawa south catch basin makes the case for the Bank Street O-Train Tunnel substantial.” O’Brien goes on to say “Bank Street O-Train Tunnel is a great idea that would be a tremendous addition to the existing rail network, an idea that goes back to 2006. It needs to be grade separated via tunnel. We need to get the core right, otherwise the rest of the system won’t work, it’s call a network effect.”

Not all is positive though, the Bank Street O-Train Tunnel talk has exposed a divide between some wealthy suburbs in the east & west, and those who live in the Ottawa core and Bank Street South Bedroom communities. During Mayor Watson’s tenure, as Ottawa Citizen scribe Jon Willing says “there has been little consideration of ways to run LRT across other inner-urban communities”; only when Ottawa stakeholders and Ottawans in the core and south began to raise their voices over the last 3 years for Bank Street public rail transit have elected officials begun to speak up. The focus of Ottawa O-Train planning until recently for whatever reason appeared to be on predominately affluent white suburban neighbourhoods - is that by accident, or by design? Or as Larry O’Brien points out, is it something related to developers?

One thing is certain, the giant which many in Ottawa transit circles want to keep quiet, but keeps coming up consistently every 5 years for decades now is the Bank Street O-Train Tunnel. As the accelerated pace of densification happens in the Bank Street communities, it seems the tunnel concept that would go from Billings Bridge to Parliament Station will become inevitable. How else will Ottawans reduce congestion, surface noise, and emissions while making life easier for seniors, families, and the working class?

For more stories on Bank Street O-Train see links below

Clinton P. Desveaux is an accredited writer for Troy Media, The Hill Times, and is a contributor to the City News Radio Network. He can be reached at ClintonDesveaux@gmail.com

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Clinton Desveaux

Clinton Desveaux

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Left Handed Guitar, Photographer and Talk Jock - also known to ski wherever a hill or mountain can be found