Green light from province means Cambridge LRT could run by 2032

The Region of Waterloo announced Monday the province has given a green light to its Stage 2 ION LRT transit project assessment. That means the region is now free to seek provincial and federal funding for the project and construction could begin as soon as 2028.

Construction not expected to start before 2028

An ION LRT vehicle is seen on Charles Street in Kitchener. The province has given a green light to the region's transit project assessment for Stage 2 of the ION, which will connect Kitchener to Cambridge. (Gary Graves/CBC)

The second stage of the ION LRT project to connect Kitchener to downtown Cambridge has received provincial approval, officials announced Monday.

The province has approved the Region of Waterloo's transit project assessment for stage two, which means the region has the green light to seek provincial and federal funding for the project. Construction isn't expected to start until 2028 and will take between four to five years. 

"That would have opening day [in] 2032, obviously subject to a number of factors between now and then," said Matthew O'Neil, the region's acting manager of rapid transit coordination, during a media briefing Monday.

Stage two of the ION is an eight station, 18 km extension of the existing route through Kitchener and Waterloo. The LRT would travel from Fairway Station in Kitchener to downtown Cambridge.

The route is not expected to change going forward, O'Neil said.

"I think that we have we have a good route," he said. "We got a lot of public feedback, we had a lot of engagement and consultation on the route."

Despite competing demands placed on government budgets during COVID-19, Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry said she's confident higher levels of government will step in with the funding needed for the project.

"Infrastructure investment is one proven way of coming out of an economic downturn and not only providing the infrastructure that we need for the future, but it gets people working again," said McGarry, who noted the province has also known for some time that stage two was coming.

"[It] also signals to other investors … that we're open for business."

Regional Coun. Karl Kiefer said he's glad to see the project getting closer to completion.

"I was one of the ones that always believed it should have been done right away," said Kiefer, who represents Cambridge. "That's history, and we can't go back to that, but you know, the sooner the better."

When complete, the ION will include 37 km of rapid transit and 27 stations.


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