Waterloo regional council's planning and works committee has approved a staff recommendation to award a contract to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the region's light rail transit system to a consortium of engineering, construction and financial services companies.

The planning and works committee voted 10-4 Tuesday to award the contract to build and operate stage 1 of the LRT, which includes 19 kilometres of light rail connecting Conestoga Mall in Waterloo to Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener, to the Grandlinq consortium.

Regional council now has to ratify the committee vote at a meeting on March 19.

The Grandlinq proposal estimates a $532.1 million price tag to build the LRT. That's $13 million less than the region's initial estimate of $545 million for stage 1. 

The bid doesn't include the cost of light rail vehicles and land appropriations or $61 million worth of public works and infrastructure work that were included in the Grandlinq proposal that needed to be done regardless of whether the LRT system was going to be constructed or not.

Stage 1 of the region's rapid transit project also includes created an adapted bus rapid transit system from Kitchener to downtown Cambridge, but is not part of the Grandlinq bid. In stage 2 of the project, the adapted BRT would be converted to light rail.

The total annual operating costs for stage 1 of the LRT are estimated at $45 million.

Under the terms of the Grandlinq bid, the annual operating costs, including financing, maintenance, operation, insurance and life cycle costs come to $30 million. Over the 30-year duration of the contract, that comes to $901.5 million. There is an additional estimated $15 million in annual debt servicing costs and BRT annual operating costs that the region would have to pay.

Below is a replay of CBC's live blog of the council meeting: