Region enters final stages of LRT prep work

Graphic by Lena Yang.
Graphic by Lena Yang.

It’s difficult to think ahead to June in the midst of winter storms, but that’s exactly what regional staff are doing as they orchestrate the final details of a two-and-a-half year, $818-million construction project: Light Rail Transit.

Currently, the Region is evaluating the bids from three shortlisted consortiums to build the LRT system: GrandLinq, TriCity Transit System and Kitchener Waterloo Cambridge Transit Partners.

Regional staff are aiming to present their recommendation to council in March. Once a decision has been made, it will still take a few months of work before shovels can hit the ground.

“Even once you give them a notice to proceed, there’s a couple months they’ll need to mobilize their forces and finalize whatever agreement they have with subcontractors; they’ll have to bring equipment in, get everyone ready,” explained Rapid Transit director Darshpreet Bhatti.

While each group of businesses— consisting of construction, finance and engineering firms—has presented a proposal, the Region has taken into account limitations in terms of when construction will take place in certain areas.

“We don’t want to impact businesses so we wanted to make sure that some events that happen in the Region and certain time frames where business are most vulnerable that we protect for those time frames,” Bhatti continued, noting Christmas as an example of when shops might be particularly vulnerable to interruptions.

Of course, not all stops have been smooth along the journey so far.

Some residents are still dissatisfied with the incoming LRT, voicing concerns about cost or how construction and implementation of new road infrastructure will impact their business. Regional councillor and Cambridge mayor Doug Craig has been vocal about his opposition, calling last summer for the Region to look into what the cost would be of cancelling the LRT project.

Much of the opposition, in the experience of regional councillor and planning and works committee chair Jim Wideman, comes from a misunderstanding of the intentions of the project.

“When you get chatting with people who are opposed, you find they still don’t understand what the project is about and that it’s not only a project about moving people, but it’s very much and as much a project in shaping our community,” he said.

He says that opposing voices to LRT are “a minority.”

Regional councillors first considered LRT in 2009, approving it as the preferred technology for a new rapid transit system. The Region is aiming to have LRT running by late 2017.

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