City reviewing possible 40-day delay on Stage 2 Trillium Line LRT extension

The City of Ottawa says it is reviewing possible delays in construction of the north-south LRT extension.

In a memo to city council on Monday, Director of Rail Construction Michael Morgan said the Trillium Line team “has indicated schedule impacts" which he said are now under review.

"The City is working with TransitNEXT to confirm whether the delays will be fully realized and to confirm if the delays can be reasonably mitigated," Morgan wrote.

TransitNEXT is a wholly owned subsidiary of SNC Lavalin.

The north-south extension of the LRT is set to be complete by 2022. Morgan said the handover of the system is still scheduled for that time. The extension will bring light rail further south from Greenboro to Riverside South and the Ottawa Airport.

Details about the schedule impacts were not made immediately clear in the memo. The remainder of the memo's updates on Stage 2 include work that has been completed to date or is underway. 

"In Q4 2020, City staff reviewed TransitNEXT’s final design drawings for Limebank and South Keys stations, final communication systems design drawings for Airport Station and pre-final communication systems design drawings for Bayview Station," Morgan said. "City staff also reviewed the final design drawings for utility relocations along the existing portion of the alignment and a re-submission of the pre-final operational modelling for the mainline and the New Walkley Yard Maintenance and Storage Facility (MSF)."

Through the remainder of the first quarter of 2021, Morgan said the City will have completed the final design review for all 13 Stage 2 Trillium Line stations and will be reviewing the designs of the communications systems at each station.

The seven new Stadler FLIRT trains SNC Lavain will provide for the system are now being manufactured in Switzerland and are expected to be delivered this year.

Speaking to the city's finance and economic development committee late Tuesday evening, Morgan said the city's initial review suggests Line 2's handover could be delayed about about 40 days, but the full impact is still under review.

"We haven't accepted all of the schedules at face value and we're working closely with the contractor," he said. "We've engaged an independent review team to look at that schedule, reassess and redo a baseline and understand how we can resolve those pressures."

Morgan said an update is expected within the next several weeks.

"We want to push them (TransitNEXT) to stay on track and maintain momentum on this project to the extent possible," he said.

Some of the areas that are proving complicated are South Keys station and the Hunt Club Road bridge.

"We need to get that Hunt Club Road bridge finished up and that will put us in a better spot in terms of going forward with the testing program and everything else. It's one thing to get a station finished and it's another to get a bridge that you need for actually testing the train."

The COVID-19 pandemic has also caused some challenges in the construction industry across the city, and to supply chains from other parts of the world. 

Speaking to CTV News Ottawa before the meeting, River Ward Coun. Riley Brockington, who sits on the city's transit commission, said many citizens still remember the delays and issues that plagued Stage 1 of LRT.

"That sentiment is still very raw with my residents and taxpayers," he said. "They haven’t forgiven the delays and the debacle related to the Confederation Line yet."

Brockington said he's hopeful the Trillium Line will running again as early as possible. 

"The sooner we can get this done and open the better," he said. "Obviously, the sooner that COVID is behind us and we return back to work and school and going about our regular business, the better it will be for our public transit. The best we can do is to try and understand what the challenges are. I think everyone is committed to getting it open as soon as possible."

Mayor Jim Watson asked if there was a way to ensure the portion of the line that connects with Carleton Univeristy open in time for the start of the 2022 fall term. Morgan said that is something that could be revisted with TransitNEXT.

"Anything we can do to get that line open as early as possible would help," Morgan said.

Schedule pressures resolved on east-west extension

The memo also noted that the Stage 2 Confederation Line work had experienced some scheduling impacts, but those have since been resolved.

"Following an assessment of the schedule and of schedule mitigation opportunities, the original handover timeline of 2024 in the east and 2025 in the west remain as planned," Morgan wrote.

Stage 2 of the Confederation Line will bring LRT to Trim in the east and to Moodie and Algonquin College in the west.

The full Stage 2 expansion is a $4.6-billion project, which was funded by all three levels of government.