Mayor sees subway as key to future complex

Tim Wieclawski/metro ottawa


Mayor Larry O’Brien steps off a city bus yesterday to attend a downtown press conference to unveil the city’s rapid transit network plan.

Mayor Larry O’Brien has long-term tunnel vision.

Over the next 100 years, the mayor envisions a downtown transit tunnel evolving into a thriving underground commercial area, he said yesterday after the city unveiled its four options for a new Rapid Transit Network.

Aside from the financial impact from the construction of a billion-dollar subway, millions of extra revenue for the city and downtown businesses could be generated from development of a subterranean commercial complex.

"What I think we’ll see coming out in the next weeks from the private sector is interest in being able to commercially develop the transit stations and the underground in the city," he told Metro.

O’Brien said he imagines an underground mall developing, similar to Toronto or Montreal.

"I’m sure it will evolve over the next hundred years," he said. "It will start with some minor commercialization and as that becomes more popular it will gradually expand."

All the options for the plans presented yesterday have a downtown tunnel at their heart. Without a tunnel, Albert and Slater streets would be gridlocked, he said.

"You’d need a bus every 10 seconds or a train every 13 seconds. It simply could not work," he said.

Some criticism of the tunnel has targeted its price tag, but O’Brien said cost would not influence which system Ottawa chooses, only how long it takes to implement the changes.

"If we have the money within three or four years to build the whole system, we definitely would, but that’s something that has to be negotiated with our partners in the federal and provincial government," he said.

O’Brien said the city would be listening to the citizens about phasing of the project.

interim interests

  • It could be eight years before passengers on buses, trains or possibly both can travel through the tunnel, but Mayor Larry O’Brien said Ottawa would continue to improve the current transit system.

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