Drilling for STO?

On the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway just west of the War Museum, the road ascends a long gentle hill up and over the north-south railway track that connects to the Prince of Wales Bridge over the Ottawa River.

The bridge is very high, allowing lots of room for an electrified double O-train track to the POW bridge. Soil sampling and core drilling is going on the corners of the bridge.

Maybe the bridge is up for replacement at the end of its natural life … but it appears in good repair. I wonder if it has anything to do with the long-lost-in-action interprovincial transit study? A leading proposal last time around was to convert the POW to a road bridge and bring STO buses from their Rapibus transitway over to Ottawa to a large transfer station to be built immediately north of the new Bayview LRT Station. There are an abundance of site drawings in the Ottawa LRT portfolio that show a “transfer facility” there.

I think it would be a waste to convert a rail bridge to a road bridge only to convert it back to a rail bridge 30 years in the future when the rapibus network is converted to LRT.  I would rather see the O-Train extended to Hull, terminating in the heritage stone building opposite Terraces de la Chaudiere. STO buses would use the abundant bits of road there for a turning loop.

I hope that with the signs of fresh thinking in Ottawa (expanding the O-Train, rejigging the LRT, etc) it might be extended to reconsidering rail service to Gatineau over the City-owned POW.

The PQ, of course, would have a field day with a STO transfer station: it will be easy to create a picture of civil servants in Ottawa getting electric LRT and modern heavier rail service whilst Quebecers get to the back of the bus.

In the meantime, I hope the NCC isn’t planning to build a new bridge for the Ottawa River Expressway when the current one is big enough for rail.

Final thought: if the STO gets the POW bridge, could OLRT get the Alexandra back and run a LRT line from Rideau Centre north to Gatineau over the Royal Alexandra? Recall that the Alex was a rail bridge until converted to a car bridge a few decades ago. Time to undo that mistake…

10 thoughts on “Drilling for STO?

  1. They drill in that area every year. Last year I talked to one of the engineers when they were working near the bike path close to Lemieux Island. Apparently they were taking soil and water samples to test for contamination. The whole area used to be industrial, so they’re monitoring chemicals in the soil. At least that’s what I was told.

  2. Honest question: you mention it in the article, but just to be clear, the CITY owns this bridge, correct? So this would be the city of Ottawa giving (likely) exclusive access to the crossing for STO buses? With train tracks stopping a few hundred feet from what was built to be a rail bridge. I think we all know that’s crazy, but is it the bureaucratic hassle of running a city rail system into another jurisdiction that’s giving planners pause? If there was ever an argument to be made for forming a regional transit authority in lieu of OCTranspo and STO…

  3. There are soil and water sampling holes all over the Flats, and they are fairly shallow. I’m not sure how much polluted water they would expect to find at the top of an artificial hill.

    While the City of Ottawa owns the POW bridge AND some of the tracks on the other side, extending the Otrain over to Gatineau makes sense for N/S communters but much less sense for downtown commuters. Someone coming in from Pointe Gatineau would take a Rapibus to downtown Hull, transfer to the Otrain running every 8 minutes for a 8 minute ride, then at Bayview have to transfer again to an E/W bus to get to Tunney’s or Downtown. That many transfers may not appeal to many users.

    But I’d like to see them try.

    1. Multiple (quick) transfers is exactly what I was thinking as well. But, you would have to presume that if you’re going to go across the river, it would only make sense to really push into Gatineau, so that the stop you mention would only be a temporary terminus. Perhaps it would make more sense to follow the rail lines toward the casino? I don’t know…is it anyone’s job to think about this? As someone who has only recently moved to Ottawa, the lack of coordination between Gatineau and Ottawa is shocking. In the US, cities straddle state borders all the time, and in almost every instance there is a regional authority to handle issues like this. I am aware of the higher degree of autonomy granted to provinces…

    2. I would, too!

      And if the PQ has problems with Gatinois being shuffled around within their city on buses, then the PQ can work with Gatineau to do what should have been done from the start: use the rail corridor through Hull and Gatineau for rail transit, not Crappybus. It’s not as if they have to go far to learn from Ottawa’s failed rail-removing busway-building stupidity.

      Also second your motion re the Alexandria Bridge, and move an amendment to put rails back on the rail corridor to Aylmer at the same time!

  4. For those who are interested in more information on Gatineau’s Rapibus Project, here’s the link to the project website: http://www.rapibus.sto.ca/index.php?id=22

    Construction is underway on various sections of the route. My current cycle commute crosses the route. After reading Eric’s post and the various comments, I stopped by the project today for a quick look at the progress on the pedestrian/bike tunnel extension under highway 148 at Rue Amherst. I spoke to two of the workers on the site and found out something quite interesting.

    One of the fellows self-identified as an employee of Coco Paving, the Toronto based company that has the contract for the construction. He mentioned that in the contract he was required to remove the railway tracks, build the drainage system, crossings and bus lane roadbed, and then RE-INSTALL THE TRACKS. It appears as though Gatineau doesn’t have the density to justify rail now but is still keeping their options open.

    Thanks for the post Eric. I fully agree that the old EB Eddy plant at the corner of Eddy and Alexander Tache would make a great train station….and a nice start to the re-purposing of our 19th century industrial built heritage near the river. Two fed gov hubs (Portage Complex with ~12k+ employees and LesTerraces de Chaudiere with ~8k employees) plus a short walk to the War Museum and Museum of Civilization. Add the two new federal buildings going in at 22 Eddy and 30 Victoria and you have lots of potential riders. Eventual connections east past the Casino and across the Gatineau River to suburbia and south to the Ottawa airport and the O-train becomes a second major axis to the east-west LRT.

    I have to admit, I like the idea of an Alexandria link with the Gov Conference Centre becoming combination transit hub / central library as well…..


    1. That’s not because of STO’s choice, it’s because of federal railway regulations. The railway line is still active and therefore must be maintained in operable condition. The City of Ottawa had to do the same thing when they did maintenance around the Prince of Wales railway bridge requiring them to remove the tracks, then replace them after the work.

      1. In this case, it’s not even federal regulations at work but rather Quebec provincial regulations. The railway on the north side of the river is under Quebec provincial regulation and not federal. Quebec regulation basically now bans the abandonment of railway lines under its jurisdiction. Lines in Quebec under federal jurisdiction can still be abandoned, however.

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