Queen Street businesses frustrated by LRT delay

The delay in the opening of the Confederation Line of Ottawa's light rail network comes as little surprise to some transit riders and several businesses in the downtown core.  

Transit manager John Manconi told a city committee Tuesday that the 12.5-kilometre rail system from Blair Station to Tunney's Pasture will now open at the end of November 2018 — six months after Rideau Transit Group (RTG), the consortium building it, was supposed to hand over the keys.

"I think this is the worst project for the city in a long time," said Nasser Abou-Eldaoule, owner of Friends Coffee Co., a hot beverage and sandwich shop on Queen Street just west of Bank Street.

"They destroyed all the downtown small businesses like us." 

Hanging on until the end of November

Abou-Eldaoule, who bought the business in 2002, said construction in front of his shop, including fenced barricades during sidewalk construction and temporary street closures, has driven customers away.  

At various times over the last few years sections of Queen Street from Elgin Street to Bronson Avenue have been closed.

Abou-Eldaoule won't comment on his financial losses but said he used to have seven employees and now he's the only one running the shop — 11 hours a day. He's tried to sell the business twice without receiving even one offer to consider. 

Abou-Eldaoule said he has no choice but to hang on until the end of November but he has a five-year prediction. 

"Nobody cares about small businesses like us and I think small businesses will disappear from the downtown area."  

'For small businesses like us it's tough'

On the other side of Queen Street, just east of Bank Street, Sukon Kong is replacing a heel on a pair of men's brogue leather shoes.  

He's owned Capital Shoe Clinic since 1992 and he estimates his business has declined by 40 per cent since Queen Street has been torn up. 

"Frustrated, but what can I do," said Kong.

"For small businesses like us it's tough and delay like that, it's no good at all."

Transit riders willing to wait

At the bus shelter on the corner of Albert and Bank streets, transit riders CBC spoke with weren't surprised by the six-month delay. 

"It's unfortunate but on big projects small fluctuations are going to happen," said Megan James who takes the bus downtown where she works as a project manager. 

"It's pretty difficult to have a definitive view of all the conditions you're going to encounter and it's not a huge cause of concern for me because I think they've done the best job they could."

Another rider, Craig Caldbick, who currently takes the O-Train and then a bus was looking forward to transferring to the LRT this spring. 

"I would like it to be running sooner but we want it to be safe when it's all done, so I don't have a real problem with it."

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Queen Street businesses frustrated by LRT delay