City of Kitchener looks to buy land for crossing over LRT at Fairview Mall

Pedestrian access to grocery stores and local amenities serving the Traynor-Vanier neighbourhood would be restored if a motion to Kitchener city council on Monday is passed. Coun. John Gazzola wants the city to buy land to make a crossing over the LRT tracks.
Mike Homer, Saleem Ahktar and Paul Metzger live in apartments on Vanier and Traynor Drives. They say that the construction of the LRT has cut off their access to nearby grocery shopping and other amenities. (Andrea Bellemare/CBC)

Pedestrian access to grocery stores and local amenities serving Kitchener's Traynor-Vanier neighbourhood would be restored if a motion to Kitchener city council on Monday is approved.

The motion, to be put forward by Ward 3 councillor John Gazzola, is to acquire the land that would make a crossing over the new LRT tracks possible — something that was taken away from the community two years ago when construction on the ION began in that part of town. 

What was once a short walk became "anywheres from 30 minutes to a 45 minute walk [or] two buses. A big inconvenience," said Paul Metzger, the founder of the K-W Tenant Group that represents people who live in the buildings near the Fairview Park Mall, in 2017.

"What I'm bringing to council is a hope to get things moving as quickly as possible," Gazzola, who is running for re-election in the Oct. 22 municipal election, told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris on Monday.

The crossing was missed in the initial ION LRT designs because it was a hydro corridor.

"So there was no passage way or pathway, people cross[ed] freely at any point. Since there was no pathway there it was not picked up as a required crossing point," Gazzola said. 

Work progressing behind the scenes

People living in the Traynor-Vanier neighbourhood have been critical of the city and region for stalling on solutions. 

Some pedestrians even took matters into their own hands, Sam Kamminga, told CBC K-W in July. That included hopping the five-foot chain link fence around the tracks and someone even cut a hole through it. 
Residents had used this gap in the fence around the LRT tracks to access services on Fairway Road. Eventually the gap was boarded up, leading some to hop the fence or cut their way through. (Andrea Bellemare/CBC)

James Howe, who is running against Gazzola in Ward 3, tweeted Monday morning the crossing is a "critical piece of infrastructure" for residents.

"The city and region have failed to treat it as such. There's been more than enough time to do the work. After two plus years, it is reasonable for residents to be frustrated when there is no firm plan, timeline or [money]," Howe said.

"I know the residents are concerned and feel that nothing is being done," said Gazzola on Monday. 

"I've been working behind the scenes for over a year and a half now, working on this. And a great deal has been accomplished in that we've agreed to go ahead. Everyone — both the region and the city — have agreed to go ahead with the installation, but it takes time."

He said as the city moves to buy the land needed for the crossing, the Region of Waterloo is working on the engineering logistics. That should happen this fall and after that, Gazzola said, construction can begin.

Gazzola said the city wouldn't have an accurate cost estimate for the project until after the design is complete.