Proposed LRT routes adjusted

A vote this past June 15 concluded an eight-year discussion on future transit options in Waterloo Region with the decision of regional council to implement Light Rail Transit (LRT). However, though LRT support was considered overwhelmingly positive by most of the city, complications still arose and adjustments have still been made.

“The biggest change to the route was considering using the railway line that goes through Waterloo Square as opposed to Erb Street, from King [Street] to Caroline [Steet],” said Phil Hewitson, director of transportation for the city of Waterloo.

“Switching [the route] from Caroline and William to Allan, having on the east side would interfere with the loading docks at the Brick Brewery. The challenges with site-lines, the trains would be running the opposite direction to traffic but on the east side, the train would be running south and traffic north.”

“Since the 2009 decision,” Hewtison continued, “Transport Canada ruled that the freight trains and the LRT can share the same tracks, they just have to operate at different times. So that means the freight trains will operate at night, when transit doesn’t operate. So there will only be one set of tracks going through Waterloo Square. We didn’t oppose that, we didn’t want two sets of tracks.”

According to Hewitson, progress to the regions new LRT system is being made, despite the changes and alterations made through the procedure.

“They want to start construction 2014, so it’s still a couple years away,” he said. “There’s a lot of detailed design and there will be consultations in the mean time through the design process but their goal is to have construction started by 2014, and they estimate by 2017 it will be up and running.”

Though considered by many throughout the region to be a positive change for the community, some citizens still oppose the idea. “Some people were still concerned after the workshop, but even at the workshop some of the residents agreed that it was a better alternative, even though it might bring the train a little bit closer to their homes.”

Hewitson assures residents, that LRT is very quiet, unlike a freight train. “It is an electric train,” he said. “It won’t have bells and whistles like the freight train does and it’s a lighter vehicle. It doesn’t cause a vibration like a freight train does.”

In fact, though some people also expressed concerns with LRT being too close to their houses, this wouldn’t be the case. The plans for the electric train are to place the tracks where the closest traffic lane already exists and then push the traffic lanes further.

“It won’t be any closer than the travel lane where cars drive today,” Hewitson said.

“In fact, I think it might be better for the residents because they won’t have cars so close to their homes, and cars are more frequent than the trains will be.”

The decision has yet to be made but LRT might also stop running during certain hours of the night for maintenance, as it does in Toronto currently.

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