A tunnel under Sparks Street is the best way to run a Gatineau-based tramway into the heart of the nation’s capital, a study recommends.
But the costs and risks of digging another transit tunnel in Ottawa’s core could convince the City of Gatineau, and ultimately the federal government, that building the tramway on the surface of Wellington Street is what’s affordable.
The Société de transport de l’Outaouais on Wednesday released the recommendation from its consultant WSP to build a full tram system in the west end of Gatineau, rather than a hybrid system that would include buses.
The “optimal route” for the tramway would have a westernmost terminus around Chemin Eardley and Boulevard des Allumettières. Another winding corridor to the north would have a tramway terminus at Boulevard des Allumettières and Chemin Vanier. The two segments would joint at Chemin d’Aylmer and Boulevard Saint-Raymond and one tramway corridor would run east and across the Portage Bridge into Ottawa.
The Ottawa-based corridor will be under close scrutiny.
WSP says the Sparks Street tunnel, which would put the total project cost somewhere between $3.5 billion and $3.9 billion, is “the most effective solution.”
The Wellington Street surface option to Elgin Street, which WSP still allows as a “valid option,” would put the project cost at just over $3 billion.
The federal government, as one of the main funders of the project, would need to consider if a tunnel is worth up to nearly $1 billion more in taxpayer funds. The Quebec government would also be tapped for construction money.
Meanwhile, the feds have recently taken a keen interest in interprovincial transit, potentially making the Sparks Street tunnel option less viable in a bigger picture.
The National Capital Commission has been tasked with studying a tramway loop between Gatineau and Ottawa. Gatineau’s proposed interprovincial tramway would be the jumping off point for that analysis.
The NCC board has indicated its preference for the tramway to run on Wellington Street. Ottawa city council, however, has declared the Sparks Street tunnel as the optimal option.
The City of Gatineau could also have some big decisions when it comes to the future of car traffic in the area of Hull where the tramway is proposed to run.
WSP concluded that integrating the tramway with traffic “is not viable” on Rue Laurier, and the consultant suggested the viable option is removing traffic between Rue Eddy and either Rue Laval or the Portage Bridge.
A new transit system is required in Gatineau to meet transportation needs through 2051. The city’s population is projected to grow by 26 per cent in that time, with a rate of growth even higher in the west end.