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Waterloo Region approves light rail transit

Last week Waterloo Regional council approved a plan to build a light rail transit line by a margin of 9 to 2. When open in 2017, the $818 million line would be the largest public works project that the Region has ever built.

The region proposes to build the line in two phases. In the first phase, the trains will operate between Conestoga Mall in north Waterloo and Fairview Park Mall in south Kitchener. For the most part, the trains will move in dedicated transit-only lanes, triggering green lights at intersections with signals, allowing the trains to move quickly through cross-traffic.

Trains will drop off and pick up passengers at each of 18 stops every 7½ to 15 minutes and require about 39 minutes to travel from one end of the line to the other. The trip currently requires 48 minutes for express buses operating in mixed traffic to complete.

The light rail transit vehicles will mostly operate in both directions throughout their route, except in downtown Kitchener and uptown Waterloo. In the central areas of both cities, the trains will run one-way in each direction on separate streets, operating beside the curb, instead of in the middle of the street. Some councillors want staff to review the LRT route through uptown Waterloo.

During the first phase of the project, express buses operating in mixed traffic will extend the service to the Ainslie Street Terminal in Cambridge. These buses likely would serve stops every 10 to 15 minutes.

In a second phase of the project, the Region hopes to extend the LRT to Cambridge. However, it has not yet secured funding for this future extension.

For the first phase of the project, the federal and provincial governments are contributing as much as $565 million toward building the line. Local taxpayers are on the hook for the rest of the $253 million cost of the project.

You can find out more about the rapid transit project in Waterloo Region here.