Western Stage 2 LRT construction now 17 months behind

The cut-and-cover tunnel for Stage 2 LRT is seen under construction near the Ottawa River and Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway in autumn 2022.  (City of Ottawa - image credit)
The cut-and-cover tunnel for Stage 2 LRT is seen under construction near the Ottawa River and Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway in autumn 2022. (City of Ottawa - image credit)

The western extension of Ottawa's light rail system is running a year-and-a-half behind schedule because of labour and cement shortages and is now expected to be delivered to the City of Ottawa in late 2026, a city committee heard Tuesday.

Residents have been watching future rail lines take shape all over Ottawa, as two contractors build onto the existing LRT to the south, east and west. With 44 kilometres of track, 24 new stations, and a total project cost of more than $4.6 billion, the Stage 2 rail project is the most expensive in the city's history.

The western leg was always due to open last, with an original date in 2025. It involves building 11 stations from the existing Tunney's Station west to Moodie and to Algonquin College, with a 2.8-kilometre cut-and-cover tunnel near the Ottawa River and along Byron Avenue.

City of Ottawa
City of Ottawa

Construction of that tunnel has been a challenge, Ottawa's rail director Michael Morgan explained as he showed dozens of photos to the finance and economic development committee.

"We're seeing a lot of pressure on the availability of craft to actually undertake the work, so this is people who are doing rebar, people who are pouring concrete, people who are building stations," he said.

Many large infrastructure projects in Ontario are delayed and there is a shortage of cement in North America, he added.

When Morgan last provided the committee with timelines in April, the western extension was three months behind. In August, he sent council a memo saying the delay could be "up to a year." Now, Morgan says it's 17 months late.

Bay ward Coun. Theresa Kavanagh worried overnight work might increase, and said neighbours' mental health is affected by multiple years of construction.

"Ideally some of these really big impacts, like rock excavation, will come to an end in the near future," Morgan told her. Some homeowners have lived through that digging, or had lights shone at their properties.

More work and noise will be "forced inside" as more of the tunnel is covered with a roof, he added.

Trillium Line one year behind

The same contractor, Kiewit-Eurovia-Vinci, is also extending the Confederation Line to Orléans by adding five stations.

"Generally, the east is still on schedule," said Morgan, pointing out that leg is only 36 days behind at this point and should be delivered to the city on Jan. 1, 2025.

Residents will likely see Citadis Spirit trains moving along the tracks in the median of Highway 174 by next year when testing gets underway, he said.

Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press
Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press

The southern extension of the diesel Trillium Line to Riverside South and to the Ottawa International Airport was supposed to be done by now.

Instead, contractor SNC-Lavalin has laid 65 per cent of tracks and expects to hand over the line to the city next August, which is one year late, Morgan reported. The Stadler FLIRT diesel trains arrived several months ago, but testing of the Siemens signalling system can begin in earnest once the tracks are all laid, he added.

In July, city council approved an extra $60 million for the Stage 2 project because the contingency fund was almost empty, and hydro and gas lines had to be relocated.

Coun. Eli El-Chantiry asked if more funds would be needed given the current supply shortages. Morgan said it was possible because the city's LRT oversight office would need to stay open longer, and more claims come in toward the end of a project.

Tuesday was the final meeting of Ottawa's finance and economic development committee with outgoing mayor, Jim Watson, as chair. After hearing the Stage 2 update, council members spent nearly two hours in a closed session to hear an update about lawsuits and claims related to both stages of LRT construction. No details were shared publicly.