No new deadline for Ottawa’s LRT in latest update from city

A senior city manager says the consortium building Ottawa’s $2.1-billion light rail transit (LRT) project has hit some “key milestones” over the last two months, but there’s still no word on when exactly public transit riders can expect to board the trains next year.

The Rideau Transit Group (RTG) blew past its second deadline for the Confederation LRT line earlier this month; the city was supposed to get the keys to the 13-station system on Nov. 2.

John Manconi, the city’s transportation manager, told the finance and economic committee on Wednesday morning that he had no new, firm completion date to give them.

Our position continues to be that it’s sometime in (the first quarter) of 2019,” Manconi told Mayor Jim Watson and councillors during his latest LRT progress report.

RTG has to provide a revised deadline to the city by Jan. 2, Manconi said. He noted OC Transpo will need seven to 10 days beyond that new date to get the Confederation train “into launch mode.”

Whenever it is announced, the next hard date will be the third deadline for the massive transit project that has experienced several construction mishaps and delays.

Manconi said the city continues to monitor the project’s progress closely and is holding out for a “reliable” date that’s “based on technical findings.”

“We want a date that assures as much certainty as they can provide,” Manconi said.

RTG missed its first deadline in May, for which it wasn’t penalized. Due to the project’s delays, Manconi said the city has been withholding a number of payments to the consortium, totalling more than $260 million.

After RTG failed to make the Nov. 2 deadline, the city confirmed it “intends” to levy a penalty of $1 million on its next payment to RTG for the missed target date.

They’re incentivized to move as quickly and effectively as they can,” Manconi said on Wednesday. “We have all the cash.” 

The finance committee learned on Sept. 10 that RTG had told the city it could not meet all of its contractual obligations – including all the necessary safety testing – by Nov. 2.

Up until then, LRT progress reports had indicated the project was on track to be delivered by that date. But councillors learned the city had its doubts and ordered a third-party assessment that reportedly determined that wasn’t the case.

Manconi said the city then found out that some parts had gone missing, including two “critical” computer modules that need to be installed in the last two of the 34 LRT trains.

Manconi reiterated on Wednesday the city has refused to let RTG take any shortcuts on its contractual obligations and will work to recoup costs incurred as result of the delay.

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