Ottawa & South Talks Bank Street Tunnel

Clinton Desveaux
9 min readJan 22, 2021


By Clinton P. Desveaux

Photograph by Clinton P. Desveaux

Sean Burges, an Old Ottawa South resident, and Senior Instructor at Carleton University in Global & International Studies is an Ottawan who has worked and travelled all over the world. He’s an authentic storyteller. He points out for the Bank Street O-Train Tunnel to work “you have to dig deep enough underneath the core along Bank” he also responds, “If the Boring Company and Elon Musk are able to deliver a tunnel for $10 million per mile that’s almost the same price as building a road, and the city has a duty to keep costs down for its citizens”

Sean Burges Senior Instructor Carleton University Global & International Studies

“A tunnel makes you feel like you are in a big and important city, people want the hustle and bustle of the city without cars and traffic - the idea of getting cars off the road.”

When discussing Ottawa South bedroom communities and the call from those areas for the Bank Street O-Train, Sean says, “it comes down to traffic density, there is lots and lots of housing in the south - they like the train idea because they want a transit system that is high speed for longer distances compared to a bus.”

When asked to further explain why people seem to like rail compared to busses, he points out “you never know if OC Transpo is going to come, they are hostage to traffic on the road and weather and that’s a problem for a lot of people and I can understand why.”

Bus congestion in Ottawa

You an hear the worry in Sean’s voice about the idea of a tramway on Bank Street and the space it would require and the safety issues that could happen. “If you get rid of street parking, the local businesses will be up in arms and rightfully so - it could kill the businesses, they have had a hard enough time with COVID19, so a surface line like a tram doesn’t make sense. Bank is too narrow and you end up with safety issues; the slowness of the traffic is a major issue, if you want a vibrant streetscape, in a urban city environment - you can’t remove the parking. So the Bank Street O-Train Tunnel seems like a relatively easy fix, but it’s not cheap and needs lots of planning and I said, you would need to bore a tunnel deep.”

At this point, Sean is just warming up, his voice brighten up and goes up an octave, “I’ll share a story with you, when the transitway was put in, a lot of people wanted Light Rail at that time on the transitway, the entire thing was built so you could drop the tracks on top of the existing asphalt.”

“I would love to have an easy way to go downtown - they would need to build stations, and plan where the stations would go and that’s not an easy task. There should be fewer stations maybe every 1 km so that would give you 4 stations in total, people are talking about too many stations from the maps I’ve seen.”

“What it will come down to is traffic density, and ridership today vs growth tomorrow. Sean has clearly spent a lot of time thinking about this, and seems happy to share his thoughts with the public at large, “the city needs to figure out how to deal with 2 different transit systems between Ottawa and Gatineau and what that can mean for future ridership, it’s a serious problem in the city having OC Transpo and STO.”

Alexandre Laquerre Engineering & Technology Specialist

Alexandre Laquerre, who has spent his life living downtown has plenty to say on the issue of the Bank Street O-Train Tunnel. He’s someone with an engineering and technology background. He has travelled the world and has gained a lot of experiences.

“Bank Street is a natural place to put the O-Train Tunnel, you put transit to move people to and from destinations - there is plenty of things to do on Bank, it’s downtown, it has key locations like the Glebe, and Lansdowne and other places.” He also points out “it’s a pain in the butt to get to Lansdowne by bus transit. You can’t have a thriving district that is filled with cars and Bank Street is too narrow for buses and the Bank Street O-Train Tunnel means you can use a car as little as possible. A car free lifestyle, gives you liberty or freedom to live in the city. We should hope and demand for a better alternatives to busses.”

Bank Street Congestion

Alexandre is worried about planning, “I think the city of Ottawa has to embrace fixing transit in the core” and he pauses, at this moment he carefully and slowly says “but they are trying to do as much as possible for the suburbs. The city core people are left empty handed with crumbs,” you can hear the sadness in his voice, it’s an issue that brings great pain to him. He suddenly works up his courage again, with passion in his voice, “it is totally legitimate for the core to demand the Bank Street O-Train - planning can’t always go to the suburbs, people should have spoken up years ago, and the good news is they are speaking up now, it’s time people plan for the core.”

When asked if he believes Trillium Line 2 is a legitimate North/South transit corridor he quickly points out “it’s not very useful, it’s in the middle of nowhere, and they used existing rails from CN because they were worried about dimes instead of the people who live and work in the city. With the exception of Carleton University, there is nothing on that line.”

Artist Rendering of Airport YOW O-Train Station

I can hear the frustration in Alexandre’s voice, “in order to get from from the airport (YOW) to downtown you will have take multiple transfers and the reason is, because the Trillium Line goes nowhere; it makes no sense at all; and people just end up driving there cars everywhere.”

Krio Guan the popular Ottawa podcast & radio personality has been issuing a series of vlogs on the subject of a Bank Street O-Train Tunnel running from Parliament Station to Billings Bridge. Krio says, “I’ve dedicated multiple episodes on this topic.”

Ottawa Radio & Podcast Personality Krio Guan

It’s an issue Krio wants discussed, “the crux of this is the potential expanded light rail that would run into a well established area with an underserved population as far as transit goes. The whole idea of ‘let’s placate the suburbs’ by giving them expanded transit at the expense of Ottawa South and the core of Ottawa.”

Ottawa Radio & Podcast personality Krio Guan video discussing Bank Street O-Train Tunnel

Guan’s body language and tone in his voice shifts, because “there is classism in this city.” Anyone can tell he is hurt by how many people he feels look down on Ottawa South because “the conversation devolves into calling a part of the city, (Ottawa South) they don’t like, ‘affluent’, people in Ottawa South predominately depend on public transit. The reality is the places where the Ottawa O-Train plans to expand currently are affluent - the suburbs.”

Guan is starting to get warmed up, “this issue has to be addressed, whether or not the Bank Street O-Train goes through, it has to be on record, that people in the community had something to say.”

Donald Henderson Ottawa Explorer & Historian

Donald Henderson is from Centretown. He currently lives in the suburb of Nepean. He prides himself as being an Ottawa explorer & historian and someone many tourists and visitors seek out for city knowledge. “People want the bus traffic off Bank and that’s the reason for the Bank Street O-Train Tunnel. People having been talking about this issue since the 1970’s and city hall just ignores us.”

Donald is a high energy sort of person and he gets animated when talking about the Bank Street O-Train idea, “the city would need to plan it now, the population is growing like crazy, they need to examine the old original city maps. It will take 20 years before its done because the city is slow at everything it does, that drives a lot of us crazy, so the planning needs to start now.”

“I would take the Bank Street O-Train Tunnel just for fun, to roam around downtown again, I stopped going downtown 10 years ago, it’s not easy to get around with my health issues plus all of the traffic. The traffic turns people off. I want to explore the downtown again, the Bank Street O-Train would make that easier.”

“I’m going to share a story with you about the old underground tunnels.”

Next Donald leaves me stunned with the following nuggets of history that I had never heard before:

Map created by Antoine Save

“There is a tunnel under Bank Street already, it’s been there for decades, that goes from Wellington Street to Lansdowne Stadium. It’s about 20 feet high and 10 feet wide. People would do cabling under the city there until the 1970’s. It was built for the army, it was the training camp at Lansdowne and was used around World War 2, it was rediscovered by accident one afternoon when it’s ceiling was punctured while running cables under the city.”

Donald continues to share more stories with me about tunnels:

“There is also an existing tunnel that runs from the old Union train station downtown Ottawa under Sparks Street”, the basement from the old Zellers department store (now a Winners) on Sparks/O’Connor is one way in. There is a door that will take you to that tunnel. And that’s why they want to run the Ottawa Gatineau Rail Loop under Sparks Street, in order to use that existing tunnel.” I thank Donald for his time, not knowing if the World War 2 Bank Street tunnel story is an urban legend or a real thing; but I take away from this encounter and all conversations I’ve had from Ottawans, the love and passion people have for the Bank Street O-Train Tunnel concept, there Ottawa South bedroom communities and the Bank Street core of Ottawa.

Clinton Desveaux is an accredited writer for Troy Media and can be reached at

For additional stories on Bank Street O-Train Tunnel see links below:



Clinton Desveaux

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