The long-awaited ION service will launch on June 21, regional council announced Wednesday evening.

Regional Coun. Tom Galloway had confirmed that the Ion will be launching in the spring and that the exact date would be announced at Wednesday's regional council meeting.

“I checked with the Farmers’ Almanac,” he told regional council. “According to the Farmers’ Almanac, spring 2019 started on March 20 at 5:58 p.m. and it officially ends at 11:54 a.m. on Friday, June 21.”

The formal launch ceremony will be at 10:30 a.m. at the Fairway Station, officially 84 minutes from the beginning of summer.

Council also put forward a motion to make all Grand River Transit services free to use for 10 days, ending on July 1.

“Somebody needed to step up and be the spokesperson for the project, some might say the whipping boy, but I’ve enjoyed it,” Galloway says. “Yes, you have to have thick skin—these kinds of projects, of this magnitude, are not done without controversy but sometimes you just have to lead.”

The region first began moving forward with the light rail system plan in June of 2003.

Testing has been ramping up with more Ion vehicles hitting the city’s tracks. It's expected that at least 12 of the 14 vehicles will have completed their required burn-in in the next 43 days, enough to start service.

The other side of this story is the cost of delays. The region has put Bombardier on notice that legal action is coming.

Bombardier sent 50 employees to the region in a much-delayed push to get the vehicles ready for service.

Previous estimates put the cost of the delays around $25 million, but that's a 2018 figure and could climb higher.

Still, Galloway nodded to the economic benefits of the Ion as well, with more than $3 billion worth of economic development completed along its route.

Last week, Grand River Transit held a series of education events in preparation for the LRT’s launch. Prospective riders were able to tour the vehicles, learn about fares and get used to the system.