Ottawa’s mayor says the tunnel for the western extension of the city’s light-rail transit system won’t fall victim to the same issues that delayed construction of the original downtown tunnel.
Mayor Jim Watson and other elected officials joined the consortium responsible for building the east-west extensions to the city’s LRT line on Friday morning for a groundbreaking ceremony to kick off construction of the new tunnel.
When finished, the three-kilometre tunnel will run beneath the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway and Byron Linear Park to connect the existing LRT system to Moode Drive in the west and Baseline Road in the south. A second, shorter tunnel will also be built out beneath Connaught Avenue to connect Lincoln Fields Station to Queensway Station.
Tunnels can be a touchy topic when it comes to Ottawa’s LRT.
A sinkhole opened up beneath Rideau Street during the construction of the tunnel for the original LRT line, one of the major disruptions that led to the line opening to customers a year and a half after the first promised date.
But Watson said Friday not to expect a sinkhole in stage two.
The western tunnel is being built in a “cut-and-cover” method that will see a ravine dug out and then recovered to form the tunnel.
Compared to the stage one tunnel, which had to be built beneath the Rideau Canal and a busy downtown core, the potential hazards on the latest project are far less severe, Watson said.
“The threat of a sinkhole or those kinds of issues that we experienced with the first tunnel will really not happen here,” he said.
Construction officials on site Friday said work is on track for the $4.66-billion light-rail project to be ready to ride in 2025.
East-West Connectors, the consortium building the new tunnel and laying the track out to the west, is also building out the eastern extension of Ottawa’s second stage of light rail, while SNC-Lavalin, under the name TransitNEXT, is constructing the southern expansion.