Regional priorities in 2015: LRT, GO service, garbage, housing
Michael Murray, Chief Administrative Officer for the Region of Waterloo, spoke to The Morning Edition on Tuesday about some of the priorities for regional council in 2015. Here is a look at what is at the top of the agenda for regional councillors and staff in the coming year:
Light Rail Transit
2015 will be a big year for construction of light rail transit in Kitchener and Waterloo, as construction is expected on every part of the route, said Murray.
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"There will be some local traffic impacts for sure, and one of the really big things we're working on between the region and our partner Grandlinq is how do we manage construction and try to minimize the impacts of construction on residents and businesses," Murray said.
"Communication is a huge part. We've learned from our experience in 2014 that we probably can't do enough communication."
Murray said the region is considering communication strategies like providing multiple notices to businesses on the route well in advance, and working with those businesses as the construction date grows closer to help mitigate the day-to-day impact of construction.
Two-way all-day GO service from Kitchener to Toronto
"GO Transit and Metrolinx are looking at the whole network and saying how are they going to implement two-way all-day GO service right across their network with seven corridors," said Murray.
"So our big challenge is to say, how do we make sure that Waterloo Region is at or near the top of the list of priorities when they actually get onto the work?"
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Convincing the province to add service between Cambridge and Milton is another top priority.
"There's been a lot of work over the years...the region five or six years ago did some feasibility analysis and business case that demonstrated that GO train service from Milton to Cambridge was highly feasible," said Murray.
"Over the last year, regional staff and Cambridge staff have worked together on updating and refining that analysis, which we've now done. So we're finished the technical work, we're just finishing up the details... the next step is to get all of that in front of the province, getting it in front of GO and Metrolinx and having our local politicians meeting with provincial politicians."
Murray said the landfill has a projected life span of 15 to 20 years remaining, unless green bin participation improves over the next couple of years.
He said regional council will look at changes to curbside collection policy, like imposing a bag limit on garbage or changing the frequency of waste collection in order to encourage people to use the blue box and green bin more.
"And that would have all kinds of environmental benefits," said Murray. "You know there'd be less greenhouse gas generated, less leachate from the landfill, less odour from the landfill..."
Murray said a recent analysis indicated that 50 per cent of what's going into the landfill could be recycled or composted.
In recent years, the waiting list for affordable housing has stayed steady at 3,000 people, despite the region housing between 500 and 700 people off the wait list every year.
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New funding from provincial and federal governments, totalling around $25 million over five years, will help to alleviate that list, Murray said.
"So we have the ability to invest that in a range of programs and that's going to be the work we're doing in early 2015," said Murray.
"Some of those things are building new affordable housing units, and so we have a target of building 250 new units over the next four years. We also can invest some of that into affordable home ownership, so helping people to actually own their own homes. The third thing is renovating some existing units, and the fourth thing is called a rent assistance program, so providing rent assistance for people on low-income."