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Downtown Kitchener getting heated dome for LRT worksite

A temporary heated dome will cover part of King Street in downtown Kitchener so that construction on a section of the LRT can continue during the winter.

Dome is needed to bring project back on track after several delays

A heated dome is needed over a portion of King Street to keep LRT construction on track. (CBC News)

A temporary heated dome is being constructed in downtown Kitchener to keep light rail transit construction going throughout the winter.

The dome will cover King Street near Victoria Street where a new railway bridge is being built and an underpass for the LRT will be constructed.

Waterloo Region councillor Tom Galloway said the project is necessary after delays put the project behind schedule.

"In order to get the road opened earlier for the businesses and residents who have been doing that detour for 18 months, we decided it was in the best interest to incur this expense to keep the project on schedule," he said.

Galloway said winter construction like this is "not typical" and even with a mild winter so far, more snow and cold weather could be in store before spring.

Final cost depends on heat

"We don't know what the rest of January, February, March and the early part of April is going to bring, it's only prudent to take that into account and what typically are the temperatures for our area during those months," he said.

The price tag for the dome could reach $2 million - which includes construction and takedown of the dome as well as heating it - but Galloway said there are a number of factors that could affect the final price.

"There is no final estimate because the big variable is the cost of heat. The heat will, of course, be dependent on weather and how long. If you have to heat to the end of April or only the beginning of April, if you have to heat because the outside temperature is -20 or if it's 2, there'll be significant differences in the amount of fuel used," he said. "The final cost won't be known until after the actual use of the dome is completed."

Taxpayers shouldn't worry: Galloway

He also noted the region might not be on the hook for the full cost. GrandLinq may have to pay a portion because they may have contributed to the delay in construction, Galloway said. While railway authorities also caused delays during the approval process of the project, Galloway said they would not pay any costs for the dome because it is not their project.

"It will all be subject to negotiations to see who pays for what part of the cost," he said.

Taxpayers don't need to be too concerned about the cost of the dome, Galloway said, because it is still covered under the budget under a contingency fund.

"Every road project, every building project that the region engages in has a significant contingency for unforeseens," he said. "We have contingency funds for this. It's not anything we're going to have to levy more money for or anything of the sort. Currently, at least. We're still early in the project."

The LRT project has attracted its share of controversy — it was a major topic in the 2014 municipal election when several candidates running for seats in Waterloo and Kitchener as well as Waterloo Region questioned whether it was feasible to scrap the plan

As well, construction was halted in Uptown Waterloo over the holiday season over fears it would discourage shoppers from spending money locally.

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