Watson Proposes $2-Billion Screw-Up



The downtown tunnel for trucks gets more bizarre by the day.

Bad enough that Mayor Jim Watson and a cadre of local politicians nixed the much-studied $1-billion Kettle Island bridge for a $2-billion truck tunnel.

Bad enough that the point of spending huge money on such infrastructure was to finally get trucks carrying dangerous materials out of downtown but, as The Bulldog has been saying for months, Watson too late in the game has discovered that dangerous materials can’t use the tunnel. Accordingly big trucks carrying gasoline and propane will continue to trundle through downtown. So for $2 billion, Ottawa doesn’t solve the problem the city and the public was intending to remedy.

Photo above: Mayor Jim Watson should have known in the beginning that trucks carrying dangerous materials can’t use a tunnel.

Now the mayor tells us we will have to pay tolls at the tunnel which does not solve the problem for which it was intended. A continuing legacy for the people of Ottawa of the triumph of Watson political expediency over common sense and practicality.

A very defensive Watson then tells the media that there is no use discussing the Kettle Island bridge because that is absolutely off the table. It’s understandable that the mayor doesn’t want any more discussion on the Kettle Island option because it makes him look incompetent.

Watson should have known trucks carrying dangerous materials could not use a tunnel, should not be spending $2 billion on a $1-billion solution and should not be building an unnecessary tunnel and then charge taxpayers fees to use it. Now he knows these things and still continues with the proposal. It’s Watson’s way … right or wrong. And this is very wrong.

One more ‘shouldn’t’. The people of Ottawa should not have voted a person into office who doesn’t understand what massive municipal debt can cause, who doesn’t understand how to balance the operating budget and wants to build a $2-billion tunnel that doesn’t solve the problem it was designed to remedy.

This blunder tops the cost of the huge mistakes of the Orgaworld contract, Airport Parkway pedestrian bridge, Strandherd Bridge, downtown and Highway 174 sinkholes combined and many times over. And transportation committee approves asking the other levels of government for money.

Instead we have a mayor who thinks that being in office is a four-year election campaign, a big party (witness Ottawa 2017 with its huge, secret budget) and by his own admission doesn’t like to spend time in his office.

This has to end before Ottawa gets itself buried in debt … if it hasn’t already.



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10 thoughts on “Watson Proposes $2-Billion Screw-Up

  1. But, Ken, you just don’t understand.

    Jim has those beautiful tunnel boring machines in town and he just doesn’t want to part with them. If he can keep them busy digging the tunnel for a few years, maybe he can get council to approve an LRT extension east on Rideau Street and, when that one’s done, how about south down Bank?

    Between the LRT and the sewer line overflow cavern, now to be followed by Fleury’s Folly (otherwise known as the truck tunnel), one has to wonder if Jim’s toy box had too many Tonka trucks and earth-movers when he was young or if he was deprived and is making up for it now.


      1. The Voter

        You are correct. As reported yesterday (CBC Ottawa: “Ottawa’s next big dig set to start on $230M sewage tunnels”), the LRT mining machines are set to start work on the downtown storm water/sewage storage project.

        The cost of that project has steadily risen: is $230-million the final price tag? (And you thought that your water/sewage bill is already outrageous.) Moreover, this project does not service the whole of the downtown area. So one wonders whether it would not have been a better plan to gradually separate the storm water pipes from the waste water pipes as downtown streets are renovated. Indeed, were there no temporary, above ground areas possible as holding areas? No wetlands or other environmentally friendly options?

        Gee, it would be nice for city council to someday debate these issues at length.


  2. Remember back to late June when the transportation committee chair, Councillor Keith Egli, notified the media that the truck tunnel issue would be delayed until the September meeting because: “We want to get it right and we want to get it at a meeting where it will have a proper discussion.” Well it turns out that that delay was a canard because no proper discussion took place.

    Watson’s approach was to play the unity card, namely everyone united behind him. As David Reevely (Ottawa Citizen: “Tolls a certainty for a new downtown traffic tunnel, Watson says”) reported: “Watson shot back that when money’s available, as it is now with two senior Liberal governments hot to spend on infrastructure, you take it.” And furthermore, “Voting against this sends a strange message,” Watson said. “Our partners will say, you know, ‘Come back to us when you’re speaking with one voice’.”

    This is a total disregard to the fact that the city once had a united voice in support of the Kettle Island bridge project, and the upper levels of government were willing to fund it.

    The NCC’s study concluded that a new bridge is necessary because of the growing interprovincial traffic. Therefore, a tunnel to the Macdonald Cartier Bridge is not enough. So now Watson has set this subject decades behind because of his stupid politics. First build the bridge and then we can discuss any possible need for a tunnel. And whether such a tunnel should go on the Ottawa side or the Quebec side. Indeed, maybe it is cheaper to build a tunnel connecting autoroute 50 to Kettle Island (along a stretch of Montee Paiement) than to tunnel under Sandy Hill. Or, maybe a second new interprovincial bridge could further divide the load (farther to the East or in the West-end).

    Don’t forget that the Confederation line LRT tunnel had to be shortened in Sandy Hill because of the poor soil conditions. And even then, we still ended up with two sinkholes.

    After the EA for the tunnel is completed in three years, it will lead to a RFP. Suppose that result comes back showing that the cost has risen sharply. Are the feds and province willing to spend more that a $1-billion each on this project? Will the city of Ottawa have to make up the difference?

    Indeed, does Watson even care about interprovincial transit? He has stated that he would rather have spent any Kettle Island bridge money on more public transit. And yet, when the Prince of Wales Bridge (POWB) got mentioned (by no less than Watson after the LeBreton Flats competition ended) as a transit route linking Ottawa and Hull, what was the result? The POWB renewal project money gets transferred to another project and the POWB is gated.

    Actions speak louder than words.


  3. On this project Sheridan asks for readers to remember back to June,

    Now, while not all government projects are 100% screw-ups; I’d ask readers to remember back to a little project that started back in 1968. By 1972 lands were being expropriated, plans and studies were done, by 2004 there was an estimated $2 billion project ready to go. In 1975 the whole thing went wonky. By 2013 it was announced that the federal government would continue to hold the land for a future need, maybe sometime in the 2027 to 2037 neighbourhood. That fiasco was the Pickering Airport.

    So study away my dear pols, study away.


  4. Or is it more simply put? Will Jim the politician make like a mole so he can hide away from the nastiness when his multiple projects bankrupt Ottawa?


  5. Has anyone seen the results of a study indicating source and destination for all the trucks that are on King Edward and/or the Queensway? Perhaps spending even more money on a circumferential route with bridges to Quebec on both ends would be the better long-term solution? But I agree with others that the tunnel solution does not solve the need for more bridges, only part of traffic on King Edward issue. Gee one-third of a solution for twice the price. What a wheeling-dealing city we have.


    1. And Ron234 … you wouldn’t mind if it were a $50 bet at a racetrack. This is $2 billion.

      You don’t decide in the whim of the moment.

      For this kind of money (remember the largest municipal project in Ottawa’s history was the $2.1-billion light-rail project) you must be right.

      cheers and thank you Ron



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