North-south LRT a lost opportunity

Was Bob Chiarelli right all along?

Light rail transit was his baby back in 2006; a 30 km north-south corridor from Barrhaven to the University of Ottawa.

Fast forward six years.

The price tag, now $2.1 billion, for a downtown tunnel connecting a 12.5 km east-west stretch between Tunney’s Pasture and Blair station.

Perhaps the former mayor — now minister of both transportation and infrastructure — saw the Barrhaven boom coming.

Census figures released Wednesday clearly show the population in Barrhaven is multiplying, rapidly.

Chiarelli was onto something, but remember what happened in ’06: Mayoral candidate Larry O’Brien pledged to kill the north-south light rail, then won the election, and did just that.

Now, O’Brien’s out, Jim Watson is mayor, and Barrhaven is the new black.

So should light rail be traveling east-west when residents are flocking south?

“I was a firm believer and supporter of the previous north-south,” said Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Steve Desroches.

“I think it was a mistake to cancel that but we have to pick up the pieces from that and move on, and I’ve heard loud and clear from residents that they don’t want us to start and re-start our planning process each and every term of council.”

Affects everyone

Going east-west, Desroches said, “deals with congestion in the downtown core, which affects residents from all regions of the city.”

But residents going east to west also have this really wide road called the Queensway whereas residents in the south have no corridors that were meant to handle the type of traffic that travels in the core every day

Realtor Brian Eustache says Barrhaven is “essentially going to be the centre of everything. That’s what it’s building towards,” he said.

People aren’t just going there to live — the RCMP is relocating its headquarters in the next five years.

Coun. Jan Harder, a longtime resident, describes Barrhaven as “evolving, with places that entertain families and seniors that they have never had before.”

Desroches said in the next few years, he’ll be pushing for transit investments in the south, “such as an extension of the O-Train, and further extensions of the southwest Transitway,” as well getting more space at Park & Ride lots.

That can’t come soon enough.

“It’s almost like it can’t maintain the growth,” said Eustache.

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