Ottawa LRT Rapid Transit (Downtown Ottawa Transit Tunnel – DOTT or O-LRT)

After the cancellation of the 2007 North-South Light Rail project and as part of the preparation for the 2008 update to the City of Ottawa Transportation Master plan, the City undertook public consultations for a new Rapid Transit Expansion plan. A key component of this new plan is the proposal for a downtown transit tunnel and a focus on alleviating the congestion / increasing the capacity for east-west travel to downtown. The system would be based on using 4-car electric rail vehicles.

It had become clear that the current situation with up to 180 buses per hour travelling in each direction during peak hours on Albert and Slater streets had reached it’s maximum capacity and had little room for future growth. Already there were frequent occasions where lengthy delays were experienced trying to move this many buses through 2-3 km of the downtown core. This new plan, referred to as the DOTT (downtown Ottawa Transit Tunnel) was approved by City Council in Jan 2010. It consists of the following components:

  1. a 2.5 km long east-west tunnel roughly following the current transitway route between Bronson Ave and up to U of O campus station (cost approx 700m$ including 3 underground stations). The tunnel route follows Queen Street until it begins a broad northward curve to accommodate a stop nearby the intersection of Rideau and Sussex streets and then makes a tight curve to the south to extend roughly underneath Waller St. The depth of the 2 downtown stations in this tunnel are projected to be approx 3 stories below ground while the depth of the Rideau station is expected to be between 9 and 11 stories underground.
  2. A surface rail line extending in the west to Tunney’s Pasture approximately following the current transitway route and in the east extending to Blair road also following the current transitway route. (cost approx 800m$)
  3. A rail storage and maintenance facility in the east end (cost approx 700m$)

This would be considered as phase 1 of a multi-phase plan. Phase 1 would cost approx 2.3B$ and is projected to start operation in 2018. The cost of the latter phases would add another 4B$ extending the western terminus to Algonquin College as well as adding a north-south electric rail line roughly following the route of the current diesel O-Train (but extending it further southward to Riverside South). These extended phases are targeted to be in operation by 2031.

The site used to provide ongoing updates of the project status can be found here:

Further details of this project (may be out of date) are also available at:

This plan received Environmental Assessment approval from the Province of Ontario in Summer 2010. During 2011 the City advanced the design of the system to a state of “30% complete” and selected 3 international consortiums who would be qualified to bid on the project. The detailed RFP was released to these 3 consortiums in Oct 2011 and final responses are expected in Q4 2012 with construction beginning in Q1 2013.

The plan was expected to be funded by 1/3 contributions (700m$ each) from the Ottawa, Ontario, and Canadian governments. Ontario and Federal governments ended up committing 600m$ each leaving the City of Ottawa to fund the balance (900m$). A more detailed and final cost estimate for the project will not be available until the consortiums submit their final bids in Q4 2012.

For Sandy Hill residents there are some pros and some cons to this plan. By burying the proposed Rideau station 6-8 stories deep into a tunnel, and reducing the number of stops in the downtown, Sandy Hill will lose access to the Transitway system at Laurier. The Sandy Hill access to the new system will be at the current Campus station at UofO or alternatively from an entrance near the intersection of Rideau and William St. For residents of north Sandy Hill in particular this means less convenient access to the main east-west system. This is partially compensated for by the proposed (preliminary) plan to re-purpose in 2018 the current Laurier transitway stop as a hub point for an increased number of local cross-town bus routes. On the positive side, this plan is supposed to result in a reduction of approximately 50% of the number of buses using the Mackenzie-King bridge. A preliminary view of the proposed downtown bus route network (including route maps and bus volumes) that may be implemented once the LRT goes into operation can be viewed here:


Last Updated: 28-Sept-2012