Imagine a light rail transit route that extends past Fairview Park Mall to King Street East, down Shantz Hill, over to Eagle Street, up Hespeler Road, down Beverly Street and ending at the Ainslie Street Terminal.

It’s not set in stone, but it is the preferred route for stage two of the Ion LRT line.

Specifically, the preferred route unveiled Friday would have LRT vehicles leave Fairview Park Mall and hook up with the to-be-built extension of River Road, before turning onto King Street East and crossing the Grand River via a new bridge.

Vehicles would stay on King to Shantz Hill, then make their way over to Eagle Street over the Speed River. A rail corridor would be used to divert vehicles to Hespeler Road before the Eagle/Hespeler intersection, and they would stay on Hespeler until just past Avenue Road.

The line would hook back up with the existing road network at Dundas and Beverly streets, and take head downtown via Beverly, ending up at the transit terminal.

Stops are proposed for Fairview Park Mall, the Sportsworld area, King and Eagle streets, near Eagle and Hespeler, Cambridge Centre Mall, Hespeler at Can-Amera Parkway, Hespeler at Avenue Road, and the Ainslie Street Terminal.

Building the extension along that route is estimated to cost $1.25 billion, assuming construction takes place between 2025 and 2028 and adjusting for inflation. The region will be seeking funding help from the provincial and federal governments.

Thomas Schmidt, the region’s commissioner of transportation and environmental services, says the high price tag is largely because of the two river crossings, which were not part of the first stage of the Ion line.

“Those river crossings are significant, and they are difficult to do,” he said.

Regional planners say the route was chosen because of factors including minimizing interference with wetlands and rivers, including a stop in Preston, avoiding Water and Ainslie streets as much as possible, and avoiding the Eagle/Hespeler intersection.

Other routes that had been suggested or examined over the years would have seen light rail go through the Preston core along King Street, or follow the existing iXpress bus route more closely, or travel along Maple Grove and Speedsville roads with a stop at that intersection.

Coun. Tom Galloway, who chairs the regional committee which oversees rapid transit, says the preferred route is less about serving as many areas as possible and more about being used as a planning tool.

“The route needs to go where intensification and development can … occur,” he said.

Construction will bring similar impacts to traffic patterns and businesses along the route to what has been seen during construction of the first part of the line, Schmidt said.

Three open houses have been scheduled for members of the public to give their feedback on the preferred route.

  • Feb. 23, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Lions Arena on Rittenhouse Road in Kitchener
  • Feb. 28, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Kin Club on Hamilton Street in Cambridge
  • March 1, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Newfoundland Club on Dunbar Road in Cambridge

More public consultation is expected to take place in September before the route is finalized.

Once a route is approved by regional councillors, an environmental assessment will need to be conducted and be satisfactory to the province.

With reporting by Tyler Calver