LRT’s Legacy Is Courtesy Of Watson: BENN


Saturday columnist Ron Benn says he can trace the LRT problems to a certain former mayor of Ottawa:

While Alstom’s recent description of the light-rail root cause problem was enlightening, it is what the city’s Richard Holder had to say that was most revealing.

According to Richard Holder, when the LRT was being designed in 2012, the combination of the poor soil conditions and the presence of a city pumping station that supplies water services to Orleans led to the decision to create two of the sharpest curves on the Confederation Line, at either end of Hurdman Station. According to Alstom, it is the sharp curves that generate the lateral vibrations that loosen the hub assembly nuts. These two tight radius curves saved the city more than $100 million it would have cost to move the pumping station.

I recall a term former mayor Jim Watson used, after the city capitulated to the National Capital Commission’s requirement to trench and cap the Stage 2 LRT line west of Dominion Station. Then Watson initially claimed it would cost an extra $100 million to meet the NCC’s onerous conditions. But when Watson spoke after his capitulation to the NCC, he stated that the city had “value engineered” that $100 million away with a better design.

So, is the root cause of the axle/hub/wheel assemblies a loose nut? Or is it because the city “value engineered” a cheaper design? I suggest that it is neither. No, the root cause is because the initial stage of the Confederation Line was designed to meet a back of the envelope estimate of $2.1 billion. A political promise the Watson insisted on keeping, no matter what the consequences.

And here we are today. Suffering the consequences of the ego of none other than Jim Watson. Consequences that are set in concrete.





Ottawa Has A Crisis In Municipal Gov’t: QUOTABLE

LRT Report Infers Trains Have Safety Woes (1)

Will We Need To Replace Ottawa’s LRT? (2)

Shares Of Ottawa LRT-Builder Alstom Plunge




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5 Responses

  1. Rocco says:

    Can we “back value engineer” Watson’s political career?

  2. Miranda Gray says:

    I’m surprized Benn didn’t mention the other Watson change that collobered LRT stage 1. He lead the charge to have the LRT on Rideau. That was not the recommended route. Geophys said this area had unstable rocks (right where the sinkhole opened up). Councillors (and city hall nerds like me) need to listen to the experts the city hires.

  3. Ron Benn says:

    Miranda, the list of Watson induced problems for the LRT is virtually endless. I restricted my line of thought to the long sought after “root cause” of the derailments.

    Alstom has pointed to the engineering reason for the recurring failure of the axle/hub/bearings, notably the two tight radius turns in and out of Hurdman. That may be the case. But the real root cause was Watson’s insistence that the second cut at a budget based on estimates of estimates of estimates be the final budget.

    One should keep in mind that Watson’s first estimate of an estimate of an estimate was $1.8 billion, which the city used to seek the standard funding formula of 1/3 from each of the province and the federal government. That premature effort lead to the city being left with paying for 43% of Stage 1.

    Rather than see that rise to, say 50%, Watson insisted on staying with what he didn’t know to be correct, notably a $2.1 billion budget. The Confederation Line with its multitude of failure points is the consequence.

    Some people learn from their mistakes. Others run for re-election. Until the multitude of their mistakes catches up with them.

  4. Ken Gray says:


    I think we are just scratching the surface of the problems the Watson administration caused. Watson stayed on four years too long and his terrible errors caught up to him. Being mayor is more than a perpetual election campaign.

    And why does the Trillium line procurement audit keep falling down the AG’s work agenda? Furthermore, where is the audit the AG promised of all the areas the provincial inquiry didn’t touch?



  5. Ken Gray says:


    My pet theory with the NCC holding the city hostage on the line down the parkway is a bit different.

    The NCC, like many smart people, thought the line should go down Carling. So it made its demands for going down the parkway incredibly expensive thinking the city wouldn’t bite.

    The city bit. Oops.



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