It looks like Region of Waterloo council will be rolling back the tracks on the Stage 2 ION route in Cambridge.
Regional council voted unanimously on Aug. 9 to re-evaluate the location of the south terminal on Bruce Street — the final stop on the Light Rail Transit (LRT) line — after learning of “new information which was not known in 2018,” according to a regional staff report.
The report noted now that the region has experience operating the LRT system, it has realized three deficiencies with the Bruce Street terminal.
The first is Bruce Street track geometry has operational drawbacks that have now been realized since Stage 1 ION was constructed. Second, the Bruce Street terminal station design has been developed further and will have higher property impacts in the area. And third, there is no room for additional storage for a disabled train at the south terminal, which was not identified four years ago.
The report also noted additional benefits have been uncovered in having the possible stop at the Ainslie Street bus terminal.
There is no mention in the report that the Main Street terminal stop will be affected by a change in the Bruce Street location.
“I really like the idea that staff is taking into consideration the effects that the shorter route has with the business community as well as the public,” said Cambridge regional Coun. Karl Kiefer.
“I know that some lessons have been learned from Stage 1 of the LRT process and can be applied to Stage 2. Hopefully, this will not slow down the construction timeline.”
Cambridge regional Coun. Helen Jowett reiterated Kiefer’s praise of staff applying their experience from the initial ION stage to make sure all issues are conquered before going to the government for cash.
“This adaptation promotes effectiveness and efficiency, which will perpetuate a better and improved business case when we approach the other levels of government for financial support,” Jowett said.
Creating a strategy to get that government funding was also part of the report to council. Staff will now be tasked to get that strategy together in 2023 ahead of the business case.
The report stated, “The project team is currently preparing new project cost estimates for design, construction, vehicles, operations, maintenance, rehabilitation, financing and cost escalation.”
Staff will present the strategy and costs of the project to council in early 2023. The business case is expected to be submitted to the Ministry of Transportation in late 2023.
Through the region’s Rapid Transit Capital Program, a budget of $1.95 million has been earmarked for 2022. To date, the region has spent $338,600 of that budget.
The report stated the budget is sufficient to support the re-evaluation process at a cost of $100,000.
“I just want to underscore that I think this is the result of very thoughtful consultation and conversations with some of the business interests in the broader community in Cambridge and I commend staff for taking this slight wrinkle in Phase 2,” said Regional Chair Karen Redman during the planning committee meeting.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: The region decided to go back and look into Stage 2 of the ION route, which was to end on Bruce Street in Cambridge. That location may not be as beneficial as first thought.