TRAMS could be running in the Canadian capital before the millennium, if a fast-track plan adopted in January goes ahead. The regional government’s transportation committee unanimously backed the proposals to develop an initial network by December 1999. The project has also been endorsed by 11 of the city’s 19 regional councillors including new Chairman Bob Chiarelli.

The first route would use 8 km of Canadian Pacific Railway alignment running south from Lebreton Flats on the Ottawa River waterfront. It would serve the Dows Lake area, Carleton University campus and the government offices at Confederation Heights, and could terminate at either the Billings Bridge Plaza or South Keys shopping centre. Chiarelli sees light rail as an alternative to widening the busy Airport Parkway which parallels the route near South Keys.

A second line 31 km long is also envisaged, mostly using Canadian National alignments. This would run from the VIA station southeast of the city centre through Nepean to the high-tech business park at Kanata, west of the capital. Both routes would be closely integrated with the OC Transpo bus network, with its dedicated transitways created in the 1960s; these could be converted to light rail in the future. o