Ontario threatens to withhold $60M in Ottawa LRT funding, pending fixes

Ontario is threatening to withhold $60 million in funding amid Ottawa's LRT woes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The Ontario government is threatening to withhold $60 million in funding from Ottawa’s troubled light-rail transit system until it is assured the ongoing issues related to recent derailments and wheel cracks have been fixed.

A letter was sent to Ottawa’s rail construction director Michael Morgan Tuesday night from the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) outlining the concerns.

The ministry writes that it would “like assurances that provincial funding is being used for assets and infrastructure that are safe and meet industry standards.”

Read more: Full service on Ottawa LRT expected by mid-December, memo says

Ontario contributed $600 million to the first stage of Ottawa’s LRT system and $1.2 billion to the second phase. The $60-million holdback is related to Stage 1 payouts.

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The ministry is asking the city to confirm that the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s investigations into the derailments on the line in August and September and wheel cracks discovered on some trains last year have concluded and that fixes are either done or in motion.

The city has until the end of 2021 to send these details to the province.

An independent engineer will also have to sign off that any work being planned or completed is up to industry standards.

Read more: ‘Workmanship,’ loose bolts blamed for Ottawa LRT derailment

The ministry’s letter also indicates that an audit compliance report is outstanding and will need to be submitted before the $60 million is handed over.

City manager Steve Kanellakos said in a comment Wednesday that the letter is in keeping with “standard due diligence” from the province and outlines actions already being taken to get the line back up and running following the Sept. 19 derailment.

He said the city will provide a “fulsome response” to the province and will update council on steps being taken to restore service later this week.

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