LRT: Holy Orgaworld, They Bought It

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nccFrom the people who gave us the Orgaworld deal framed on the back of an envelope and the Plasco plasma gasificator that could not possibly cost the city any money, now we have the LRT tunnel-down-a-park line.

Sheesh.

The reason the city originally (somewhere in the dark recesses of time) wanted to drive the light-rail line down the then-Ottawa River Parkway was because it would be the least-expensive alternative.

Now through the miracle of “value engineering” the city has been able to keep the cost of the western extension to $980 million … the original budget for the line.

So you take a train running on the surface of the Macdonald Parkway, then put it into a tunnel, and it saves $120 million and keeps the western extension within its $980 million budget. Just like with all the changes to the downtown tunnel and line, that phase of the project’s cost surprisingly keeps coming out to $2.1 billion. Amazing.

To a cynical mind (God forbid this would be The Bulldog’s), one might say that the original estimates for the western line were grossly pumped up. And if the city could tunnel the line and find $120 million in “value engineering,” isn’t there a very good chance the original estimates were wildly high?

And if that is the case, why hasn’t someone been fired for such a gross error?

Or maybe all these savings can be achieved when you have more pelvis time.

The spin, oh my the spin, is moving so fast it might go into orbit.

But worse than that, it was your agent’s belief based on some talks with a few participants that the National Capital Commission was raising the cost of the line on the parkway to make it too prohibitive for the city to pay. That way the city would have to go down Carling with the line.

Then low and behold the city said we’ll pay for it. Whaaaaat? A sucker truly is born every minute. The NCC members, expecting the city to choose another alternative, must have fell off their thrones when the municipality did that.

(ed. note: There must be a very good reason why the city wants the parkway so badly that it will tunnel under a park and pay for it too. Somebody owes somebody a big favour. Something is missing from this equation.)

So everyone who matters gets his way. The NCC doesn’t get its park destroyed. And the city gets its rail line.

The people who don’t matter, taxpayers, get screwed paying $980 million for a line where nobody lives. The mind wobbles.

What happened was essentially the NCC had the city over a barrel due to the municipality’s stupidity. The city went forward with Phase 1 without a secured western exit for the line. Then Mayor Jim Watson boxed himself in further by saying (rightly) that the line would not be located on the Byron Linear Park. The western line had nowhere to go.

This must have been the same kind of methodology used by the crack team of city experts who drafted the Orgaworld deal.

So the NCC held all the cards. The Crown corporation has something the city must have no matter what. That’s a weak position from the start. No doubt the Crown corporation figured that with the obstacles placed in front of the city, none of its players would do something as stupid as tunnel over such at length of line. Maybe the NCC should have hired Orgaworld as a consultant.

So dig deep taxpayers … this confrontation resulted in two winners.

And you aren’t one of them.

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