Watson, Harder asking council for funds to launch Barrhaven LRT study

OC Transpo / YouTube

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson gave city councillors a heads up on Wednesday that he and Coun. Jan Harder will soon be asking for their approval to fund an environmental assessment study, focused on extending Ottawa’s light rail transit (LRT) system to Barrhaven.

The suburb in Ottawa’s southwest end is the city’s fastest-growing community. Rapid bus routes to Barrhaven already exist, but many residents — and Harder, their councillor — still don’t feel the community is well-served by OC Transpo, Watson told reporters.

The city has already held two town halls this year to hear residents’ frustrations with what they consider to be poor and unreliable bus service to and from Barrhaven.

“The buses in many instances are not on segregated lanes and that slows the whole thing down,” Watson said after council’s meeting today.

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The environmental assessment study would help determine factors like the route, the cost and a timeline for the LRT line to Barrhaven.

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The Barrhaven LRT study would kick off in the fall and council would receive the results of the study within one to two years, a release from the mayor’s office said. Watson said it’s important to have the results of the study ready so the city can “move quickly” to solicit support from the provincial and federal governments when they make new transit funding available.

Watson told reporters the study might cost around $1 million and that he’s identified how to pay for close to $600,000 of that. The city is ready to foot the bill on its own if need be, the mayor said, but added city hall is “obviously open to partnerships” with higher levels of government to help cover the cost.

City council is next scheduled to meet in two weeks, on June 27.

Environmental assessment report for Kanata LRT released in April

Watson and Harder’s motion comes on the heels of a completed environmental assessment study on extending the LRT to Kanata, in the city’s west end. The report from that study, funded in part by the federal government, was released in late April.

City staff estimated that an 11-kilometre track from Moodie Drive to Hazeldean Road would come with a $1.85 billion price tag — money the city doesn’t have right now.

Any LRT extension to Kanata or Barrhaven would have to follow the city’s second LRT phase, which will see the system extend south to Riverside South, east to Trim Road and then west to Moodie Drive. Watson previously said he supported taking the LRT to Kanata for the following construction stage – expected to begin after 2030 – but said Wednesday that having the Barrhaven LRT study will make both extensions options for phase three.

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READ MORE: Transportation Committee approves new Kanata LRT plan

Asked whether that would pit the two communities against each other in a competition to get light rail first, the mayor said the Barrhaven study would allow the next council to determine which route is “most ready” to pursue — adding that his preference is to have both lines done at the same time.

“We want to be ambitious, we want to make sure all parts of the city are served,” Watson said, reiterating that no money has been pledged from any level of government for the third stage of LRT.

Watson in conversation with PC MPP about transit to Barrhaven

Watson said Wednesday he had discussed the proposal to launch a Barrhaven LRT study yesterday with recently re-elected MPP Lisa MacLeod, whose riding of Nepean includes Barrhaven, and she supported the idea.

“She knows the file well and certainly she told me this is a priority for her as well,” Watson told reporters in French.

READ MORE: Watson still ‘optimistic’ about Ottawa’s future under change at Queen’s Park

That does seem to be the case.

“Smart move,” MacLeod tweeted Wednesday in reference to a news article about Watson and Harder’s motion.

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