ION gets provincial boost

Photo by Will Huang

Photo by Will Huang

The Region of Waterloo’s Ion Light Rail Transit system is seeing yet another milestone.

On March 28, Ontario minister of transportation and Infrastructure Glen Murray reaffirmed the provincial government’s contribution of $300 million to the project.

The province initially committed to the funding in June of 2010, which will cover one third of the cost of the project. The region and the federal government will be equally responsible for the remaining cost.

“I’d like to hand you all of the signed documents so that we can start flowing the $300 million to you right away,” Murray said to Regional Chair Ken Seiling during his speech at the Region of Waterloo headquarters in Kitchener.

Murray called Ion the “spinal cord of the regional economy,” and emphasized the relationship between transportation and financial growth. “It is one of the most important economic investments we can possibly make,” he added.

Seiling explained the new LRT service will improve on the existing transit service for students, giving more opportunity for employment around the region.

“One of the things we’re trying to address is how do we maintain a vibrant economy here so there’s job creation and job growth, and part of that is making sure we have a good transportation system,” he said.

Murray noted that jobs are currently seeing an incline in the province.

“We have a unique challenge in Ontario; we have to fill these jobs,” he said, acknowledging the LRT and GO systems as important for bringing young people to the region.

LRT has received criticism from locals, who are mainly concerned with the project’s budget and its effect on small businesses. According to the Waterloo Region Record, a citizen survey revealed a nearly 50/50 split for those in support and against the transit system. However, with this portion of the funding finalized, there is not much those in opposition can do.

In addition to this funding, Murray discussed the upcoming GO train expansion, which is expected to come to the region in 2016.

Premier Kathleen Wynne announced the province’s commitment to a two-way, all day service between

Toronto and Kitchener just over a week ago. The provincial government is currently “aggressively acquiring track” in preparation for the expansion.

Details for the upcoming service are to be included in the spring provincial budget, which will include a ten-year transportation plan.

“The idea is we need to get more frequent service, and the idea is eventually to get to hourly and half-hourly service on that line.”

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