Ottawa's director of rail construction assured councillors Tuesday that the pandemic hasn't caused any major problems that might delay construction on the second stage of the city's light rail network.
Several councillors on the city's finance and economic development committee had the same question for Michael Morgan: Is the $4.66-billion project experiencing delays due to COVID-19?
It's not surprising that council members would be preoccupied with timelines, given that the first stage of LRT, which opened one year ago, was 16 months behind schedule.
Kiewit and Vinci Group are supposed to extend the Confederation Line east to Trim Road by 2024 and west to Moodie Drive by 2025. SNC-Lavalin, which came under great public scrutiny when it was revealed it had won the Stage 2 contract despite failing to meet certain technical requirements, is supposed to extend the north-south Trillium Line to carry passengers to the Ottawa International Airport and Riverside South by 2022.
"Everyone's on board to deliver as required," Morgan reassured councillors Tuesday.
Morgan said unlike Stage 1, the city now has a dedicated team on the ground monitoring the contractors' progress.
"When they run into a hiccup, we're aware of what that hiccup is and we can stay on top of them to make sure they resolve that," he explained.
Key milestones still down the line
Morgan said he was pleased with how rail bridges on the Trillium Line had been erected this summer over several roads in the south end, and that crews had broken ground for a new station at South Keys.
For Morgan, the "crux" of that Trillium Line project will be the delivery of the Stadler FLIRT trains, but he said they still seem to be on schedule to arrive next year.
In the east end, a key indicator he's watching for is the construction at the Montreal Road overpass, where the train will "fly over" the highway and begin following the median of Highway 174. He said that work is on track and traffic could be diverted onto new outer lanes by November.
In the west end, he's watching for progress on the tunnels, such as the cut-and-cover tunnel between Cleary and New Orchard stations.
Alstom trains now built in Brampton
Another important gauge is the delivery of Alstom's 38 Citadis trains for that east-west electric line.
Morgan said COVID-19 had caused a "stop and start" for train maker Alstom at its Brampton, Ont., plant where Stage 2 Confederation Line trains are now being manufactured.
It was the first time many councillors had heard that the trains were no longer being assembled locally, as Stage 1 trains had been.
Morgan said Alstom decided to move production to the Greater Toronto Area because it's building trains for light rail projects there, and it also wanted to focus on maintenance — not manufacturing — at the Ottawa facility.