Residents in Gatineau may be getting light rail before residents of Kanata, Orleans or Barrhaven.

To create a proper mass transit system for the National Capital Region, there needs to be a stronger link between rapid transit systems in Gatineau and Ottawa, said Sean Rathwell, an engineer with McCormick Rankin, one of the firms hired to develop the Interprovincial Transit Strategy.

That means either having more buses coming into Ottawa from Gatineau’s future bus rapid transit line, or having a train cross the Ottawa River to connect to it.

A light rail line between Ottawa and Gatineau is the preferred option, said Rathwell.

There are two locations for running trains to Gatineau.

West of downtown, a line could either cross at the Prince of Wales Bridge or the Chaudiere Bridge, then run east along the surface, through Ottawa’s transit tunnel or through an entirely separate one.

East of downtown, a train could cross the Alexandra Bridge, or tunnel underneath it.

A more user-friendly option would be a loop using both crossings, said Rathwell.

The Interprovincial Transit Strategy is being developed by the National Capital Commission, in association with the STO, OC Transpo, and the cities of Gatineau and Ottawa.

It is entering the fourth phase of its development, which involves public consultation on the long-range infrastructure planning. The actual rail lines are not expected to be operating until around 2031.

The city’s transportation master plan calls for light rail to move out to Kanata, Orleans and Barrhaven around the same time.

Ottawa residents can add their input at an open house at city hall on July 6.