Ottawa Construction News staff writer
The leader of a private consortium that has proposed investing $50 million to upgrade the Prince of Wales Bridge for an interprovincial commuter rail service, has asked the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) for an “enforcement determination and order” to prevent the City of Ottawa from moving forward with its plans to turn the bridge into a purely cycling and pedestrian route.
Joseph Potvin, director general of Moose Consortium Inc. (MOOSE – Mobility Ottawa-Outaouais: Systems & Enterprises) communicated with the CTA on Oct. 1 after Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin said on Sept. 24 that the bridge owned by Ottawa would never be used for an interprovincial rail crossing.
The city’s decision was likely influenced by a federal cabinet decision in April to quash MOOSE’s attempts through the CTA to ensure that the city maintain the rail line at the Bayview Transit Station so it could proceed with its rail service using “running rights” under federal railway rules.
In fighting MOOSE, the city had asserted that it planned to use the Prince of Wales bridge at a later stage for rail system, but after reviews by Gatineau officials, they decided that the Prince of Wales bridge would not be the best primary rail route for interprovincial traffic, and Ottawa determined that making the link at Bayview would cause
excessive congestion at the LRT transfer point.
Instead, Watson said the city is seeking $10 million in federal funds to turn the bridge into a pedestrian and cycling-only crossing.
The bridge, originally opened in 1880, is run-down and the city has set barricades to prevent pedestrians and cyclists from crossing the currently unsafe structure.
MOOSE wants to connect communities as far away as Smiths Falls and Wakefield, using the bridge as a key transfer point. It would earn its revenue from real estate developers building near the service’s rail stations.
The business planned to require the city, under arcane interprovincial rail regulations, to make the tracks available for the private service by paying the city “running rights” fees. The organization interpreted federal rules that would allow it negotiate to purchase or lease rights to use the bridge at salvage rates if the city decided to end plans for rail operations over the bridge.
MOOSE had proposed funding the anticipated $50 million renovation costs to make the bridge functional for trains and pedestrians/cyclists through private sources, based on fees paid by station operators in eastern Ontario and Western Quebec, which would see property values rise near the stations.
However, even as the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) ruled last year in favour of MOOSE when the operator asserted that the city had illegally torn up the rail lines while constructing the Bayview LRT station, the federal cabinet intervened and made it clear that running rights provisions for a rail line discontinuance relate to goods rather than passenger traffic, and that railroads could make accommodations such as trucking or marine services when it discontinued railways.
Watson at the Sept. 24 news conference near the bridge said that he didn’t think MOOSE could raise an issue now about the decision to completely end any rail plans for the bridge.
“The (federal) cabinet was very clear,” he said. “As I’ve said many times, MOOSE has no track record in running railways. We don’t take it as a serious organization.”
However, in his letter to the CTA, Potvin wrote that the cabinet order in favour of the city earlier this year didn’t “rescind or alter” the earlier CTA decision in favour of MOOSE. “It clarified a matter relating to operational railway requirements, but in no way did it alter the law of the land through Crown prerogative,” Potvin wrote.
“With regard to the Chaudiere Extension railway works that are protected under Section 92.10(c) of Canada’s Constitution, the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau remain bound by federal regulatory authority,” he wrote.
Moose has asked the agency to issue an enforcement determination and order within 30 days, requiring the city to comply with Section 141 of the Canada Transportation Act, which sets out rules for advertising and notification for alternative operators if a railway wishes to discontinue its operations.