Make LRT Project Safe: Quotable



“There has to be an effort by the contractors to ensure the protection of workers, and a number of us are getting increasingly concerned in respect to the timing and trying to ensure the project is on schedule. Ultimately that affects safety …”

Sean McKenney, president of the Ottawa and District Labour Council
on accidents on the Ottawa light-rail project


Yes but it is even more than that. With two major sinkholes (one of which does not have a cause established but it was where the tunnel was being drilled in unstable land) associated with this project, the citizens of Ottawa as well as workers and management have been put in jeopardy.

The City of Ottawa has been very, very lucky that residents have not been killed or injured in the two sinkhole incidents.

Some people might suggest that the media over-reacted to the accident late Thursday afternoon. Good. Glad the media were on their toes.

The reason? Because the media and the public they inform, given LRT construction in the past, have every reason to be concerned about safety. That’s due to past performance on this project.

LRT project safety must improve. If not, people will be killed or injured.

Being safe is much more important than being on-time and on-budget.



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15 thoughts on “Make LRT Project Safe: Quotable

  1. CBC News Ottawa has an interesting article on how far behind schedule the LRT is.
    They talk about the sinkhole, they talk about RTG ‘s need to find ways to make up for lost time.

    I’d just like to mention the following items contained in the Report to Council dated December 4, 2012 :

    — ” The proposed construction methodology and SCHEDULE is FOCUSED on having the system in operation as early as possible…”
    —” It remains the SOLE responsibility of RTG to manage ALL construction risks (including schedule)…”

    —“During the construction period, the City will make LUMP SUM PAYMENTS upon substantial completion of Highway 417 and payments for COMPLETION of SPECIFIC CONSTRUCTION MILESTONES on the Confederation Line….”
    —” The Project Agreement also details the respective obligations of the parties and the CONSEQUENCES of any failure to fulfill those obligations. In addition, the Project Agreement contains indemnities, liability limitations, and default/termination provisions….”
    —“For a more detailed description of the Project Agreement…..please refer to Appendix 2.”

    RISK TRANSFER , Construction Period:
    —“In addition RTG bears the ultimate risk with respect to geotechnical conditions for the tunnelling work.”
    — “Subject to certain exceptions, RTG will pay the CITY liquidated damages if the Revenue Service Availability is not achieved by the agreed upon date.”
    —“RTG bears all geotechnical risks related to the tunnel and underground station construction.”

    —“…ancillary legal agreements….will be required in order to complete the transactions and matters contemplated in this report.”

    OLRT PROJECT BUDGET – construction period:
    —“….the City will be required to make a series of 12 MILESTONE payments….”

    While all the above seems long and boring, it is a MINOR portion of the report. Add to the report there are also supporting documents number Appendix 1, 2 and 3.

    There is nothing MINOR about any aspect of any project. Safety ties into risk, risk ties into financial liability, payments are dependent on reaching defined milestones and therefore are dependent upon being on schedule, schedule is dependent upon delays, accidents cause delays.
    Find me a MINOR thing in any of this before using the word minor in a press release.
    Find me an investigative reporter that might want to find out what the 12 milestone payments are? What are the details in the various appendix.

    Could safety ever over-ride getting somewhere on time to pick up the cash? I don’t know; but, maybe in the pre-ATM days I may (actually I did) have driven too fast too many times to get to the bank before it closed.

    1. Just one minor after-thought, all still feels good and seems okay; fortunately, as a businessman, I don’t base my decisions on my feelings nor on what seems to be.

    2. Hi Chaz,
      Do you know what the reference to “upon substantial completion of Highway 417” means under the first section of “Project Agreement”? Is there a secret train line being built under/on/above the highway?

        1. The Voter,
          Part of the Report to Council on this project was that in addition to the $2.13 billion for the ORLT they also approved associated works for an extra $389 million. Highway 417 widening was for $226 million of the extras. it is referred to under the heading Project Agreement.

          1. The Voter,
            Just for full disclosure – the 417 widening was bundled into the Project Agreement but, the Province is covering $206 million; so it’s not a major burden on Ottawa alone on that part of the project.

  2. Like the blind-folded man and the elephant, one might touch the tail and conclude that an elephant is long and skinny. Without looking at the entire beast you don’t get the full concept.
    Your LRT is indeed a massive beast with many players and angles. Money, reputation, political futures can be made or lost. The stakes are huge and ; thusly, the interests of various participants may vary.


  3. ‘One worker – minor injury to his hand’ — only minor when the hand is not yours.
    We marked the 50th anniversary of the Heron Road Bridge collapse this year — it can happen here and to us.

  4. The media absolutely did not over-react to the tunnel incident. Given the level of secrecy and misinformation we’ve been getting from both the City and RTG, I think we are safe in the knowledge that if the media hadn’t jumped on this and forced the incident into the public realm, we would have never known it happened.
    When I see Watson applying his many, many years of training and experience in engineering and construction to be able to reassure us within hours that the incident is “minor” and of no significance, my Spidey sensors go into overtime. It has all sounded like “Move along – nothing to see here”.
    I hope that the Ministry of Labour will look at all the incidents, big and small, that have taken place in the course of the LRT construction both in the tunnel and the above-ground sections.

    1. The Voter,
      The strongest media voice that I’ve seen covering your city’s shinanigans and the LRT specifically is The Bulldog.

  5. There is a interesting Video on Bulldog Fetch about an electric folding bike, since bikes were on the table recently. I didn’t want your readers to miss the $3,100 bike that “makes you look sexy”.


  6. Chaz,

    A media release on December 20, 2012 noted that:

    “Infrastructure Ontario announces the City of Ottawa’s council has approved the selection of the Rideau Transit Group as the preferred bidder to design, build, finance and maintain the Ottawa Light Rail Transit (OLRT) project and to build and finance the widening of Highway 417. The selection of the Rideau Transit Group as the preferred bidder is the result of an open, fair and competitive procurement process, which was overseen by a fairness commissioner. The consortium is best suited to deliver an excellent project at the best value for taxpayers, on time and on budget.”

    And further: “The City of Ottawa engaged Infrastructure Ontario as the commercial procurement lead for the Ottawa LRT project. The OLRT project has been procured and will be delivered using the province’s alternative financing and procurement (AFP) delivery method. Infrastructure Ontario is a Crown corporation dedicated to managing some of the province’s larger and more complex infrastructure renewal projects – ensuring they are built on time and on budget.”

    So you can see that “on time and on budget” is the theme that is heavily emphasized. The problem is that we (i.e. the public) have been offered no measure of how this consortium is “best value,” nor why they are best suited to deliver this project “on time and on budget.”

    This description sounds more political than scientific, i.e. just political assurances that this is the case. But that has always been Mayor Jim Watson’s style, especially as related to his campaign slogans: “time to move forward”; and “no time to hit the rest button.”

    Indeed, we may well ask whether various city projects, like Lansdowne, were “best value.” Likewise, it would be prudent to slow down and pose some basic questions to measure the value of future projects, for example: new bike lanes; Phase 2 of LRT expansion; the truck tunnel; storm-water tunnel system, etc.

    1. Sheridan:

      You hit those nails on the head:

      – finance, it’s one of those Feds and Province capped commitment things.
      – budget is set on a “fixed price contract” that isn’t exactly fixed price.
      – politics and reason.

      The part I really love is that instead of the city taking the debenture route, the city is borrowing the money from the consortium that’s doing the building

      It’s a lovely gig for the business that has your city tied up until 2048.

      Just how many councillors do you think actually read the full report along with the attachments.



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