A single light rail tunnel, running under one downtown street, could be built for less than half the estimated $1-billion price tag, according to downtown property owners.

According to cost estimates by the Downtown Coalition, a 3.1-kilometre, bi-directional tunnel, running beneath Queen, Albert, or Slater streets could be built for up to $445 million if property owners along the route are brought on board to help build subway stations in their buildings.

Yesterday, the coalition — representing 35 property owners, with more than 12-million-square-feet of office space and 2,500 hotel rooms in the core — volunteered a number of potential station locations for the light rail tunnel, which is the centrepiece of Ottawa’s new rapid transit plan.


“It’s not our role to select the route for the tunnel, but we want to continue our involvement in the process,” said coalition co-ordinator Hume Rogers. “We believe that there are three potential routes for the tunnel and that the tunnel has to go under only one street, not two.”

Transit consultant Morrison Renfrew said it is feasible to build the tunnel beneath one street. Streets in Ottawa are 20 metres wide, but the tunnel could be made as narrow as 15 metres, he said, though it would bulge at the stations. That would require the city to work with property owners to build stations.

While the original plan called for two tunnels, transit committee chair Coun. Alex Cullen said that could change, depending on results from the environmental assessment.

“We’re open to other options,” he said. “The current concept for two tunnels is not set in stone.”
Rogers said the city and property owners will have to negotiate their own arrangements, but the door is open for public-private partnerships to construct a route.

“It’s safe to say that there will be economic benefits to having a station in a building and we are willing to some way participate in the costing,” he said.

Details of how the stations would look or be funded will be dealt with later, said Bill Campbell, senior vice-president with Minto Commercial Properties. For now, he said, “We’re letting the city know that we’re open to being part of the solution.”

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