How Ottawa ended up with a 2.5-km rail tunnel under its downtown

By Jon Willing, August 22, 2019

There were two ways the city could get electrified trains through the downtown core when it was planning its east-west light rail system more than 10 years ago: build rail lines on the road surfaces or dig a rail tunnel.

A 2007 report from a task force appointed by former mayor Larry O’Brien, whose council cancelled a north-south LRT contract, recommended a downtown rail tunnel as the best way to breathe life into the core and get rid of the daily traffic bottleneck.

Digging a tunnel through the core of the nation’s capital would be expensive, but there was potential to reduce the operating costs of OC Transpo by taking diesel-guzzling buses off the roads and removing any barriers to getting through a busy downtown at rush hour.

The 2008 transportation master plan included a downtown tunnel as the backbone for the “phase one, increment one” of an LRT system, part of a larger vision to expand rapid transit across Ottawa.

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