Federal Regulator Issues Order to City of Ottawa: Maintain Inter-Provincial Railway Bridge to Within 12 Months of Operation, or Sell It
In a decision on 16 February, the Canadian Transportation Agency (part of the Federal Court system) gave the City of Ottawa two choices. It must take the steps necessary to maintain the inter-provincial railway connection between Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec via the Prince of Wales Bridge to within 12 months of normal railway operation. Otherwise, it must proceed through a formal discontinuance process, which first involves offering this section of railway for sale to others for continued railway operations.
Two years ago MOOSE asked the federal Agency to enforce an older 2012 decision regarding the integrity of this inter-provincial railway connection. Now the Agency has done just that. “The Prince of Wales Bridge is the linch-pin of any region-wide, inter-provincial passenger rail system serving Canada’s Greater National Capital Region”, explains Joseph Potvin, Director General of MOOSE Consortium. “This is the only railway between Ottawa and Gatineau.”
“MOOSE is well prepared for any steps the City is required to take”, he added. If the City of Ottawa chooses to opt out of stewardship of the bridge, MOOSE will be in a legal position to purchase it. The company has engaged an experienced investment syndication management firm to assist in assembling the required capital.
“Our initiative is strongly grounded in the economic and social interests of citizens and businesses”, he added. “Households and organizations really need transit throughout this region to function as an integrated whole, even though it is spread across two provinces and more than a dozen municipalities.”
“From the beginning Moose Consortium has also reached out to First Nations leaders in respect of aboriginal prerogative over the lands and waters of this entire region”, continued Potvin. “And we have been fully committed to aligning our development to the National Capital Commission’s 50 Year Plan for Canada’s Capital”.
In 2015 Moose provided to the City of Ottawa, Ville de Gatineau, the National Capital Commission, and the Canadian Transportation Agency, an engineering report with drawings and detailed cost estimates for a $50M full refurbishment of this inter-provincial bridge.
MOOSE Consortium’s engineering plan, prepared by REMISZ Consulting Engineers, includes seismic upgrades to the structure, as well as a pedestrian pathway cantilevered off the downstream (east) side overlooking Parliament Hill. It would also have a dedicated cycling pathway cantilevered off the upstream side, and a footbridge to cross over top of the track on Lemieux Island. The company’s ‘Rails-WITH-Trails’ design advances public safety by removing any incentive for people to walk on the tracks.
REMISZ also drafted, and MOOSE has already proposed to the City and to the Agency, a way to reconnect the dismantled approach track to the bridge connecting Ottawa and Gatineau. This essential remediation project would cost of approximately $25M, but it leaves the City of Ottawa's new Bayview Station design exactly as it is, and would not interfere with the delivery timeline of the OLRT Project.
In its decision this past Friday, the regulator determined that the City of Ottawa had failed to respect key requirements of the Canada Transportation Act. Without authorization the City “removed infrastructure, created physical barriers [and] allowed one of its lines to fall into a state of disrepair such that operation of the line by the [City itself] or by another company granted running rights is not possible within a reasonable period of time”.
The regulator’s statement was emphatic: “The Agency notes that the City has taken specific actions that render that portion inoperable and has linked any restoration of operability to the possibility of rail operations at an undefined time in the future”.
In sum “the Agency finds that the City has, for all intents and purposes, discontinued a portion of the [railway] without complying with the discontinuance process set out in Division V of the [Canada Transportation Act].”