Lead design firm of an engineering joint venture for the largest infrastructure project in Ottawa’s history.
By making it easier to get to the core while creating attractive development opportunities around stations in suburban areas, the Ottawa Light Rail Transit (OLRT) will help change the way people work in the nation’s capital. Set to open in 2018, the route will link East and West Ottawa in just 24 minutes – accelerating the movement of people to newer buildings outside of the core, and thereby, open up more space downtown. The new 13-station light rail “Confederation Line” will replace many of the bus routes downtown, furthering sustainable transportation goals, meeting the needs of population growth, as well as reducing operational costs. The $2.1-billion project is hoped to be the first line in a network of light rail throughout the city.
Innovative project delivery
WSP was part of an engineering joint venture within the Rideau Transit Group design-build consortium. This unique public-private partnership project model means that the private sector is largely responsible for the delivery and the performance of the project from design to long-term maintenance. This model delivers value for money by ensuring a fixed price contract, schedule and cost certainty, allocates risk to the appropriate partners and encourages innovation.
The project involved converting a portion of the existing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system into a Light Rapid Transit system and adding new track, all the while keeping the BRT system fully operational during construction. Work included the construction of a new station, upgrading existing stations along the route, and a new maintenance and storage facility.
Engineering for a unique project
One of the major engineering challenges was the tunneling of a 2.5-km-long tunnel through the downtown core. Proximity to the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the specific soil conditions of the downtown core, and the properties of the materials (geotechnical properties) that were excavated were all evaluated. With over 153,000 cubic metres of rock removed from tunnel, some was used for some concrete production to enhance project sustainability.
The Confederation Line overhead electrical lines have been designed to take into account Ottawa’s unique weather conditions, with foundations and poles that have been specially designed to resist ice build-up and extreme wind.