'Substantial announcement' on GO service months away: Vernile
To hear some Waterloo Region politicians tell it, the best thing about Thursday’s provincial budget was how often it mentioned Waterloo Region.
“What is new is the volume of language about this region and the important role that this region plays, from an economic development point of view, for the province,” Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said in an interview.
“They talked about the innovation corridor from Toronto to Waterloo Region, and in light of that talked about their ongoing commitment toward two-day, all-way GO between Toronto and Waterloo Region.”
Kitchener Centre MPP Daiene Vernile says she counted 13 references to Kitchener and/or Waterloo Region in the 350-page budget document.
“The province gets … that we are innovators,” the Liberal representative said.
Less excited by the references to the area is Michael Harris, the Progressive Conservative MPP representing Kitchener-Conestoga.
He says he was hoping to see more in the way of exact timelines for some of the projects discussed in the budget.
“This has no detail in terms of actually delivering on the promise for two-way, all-day GO,” he said Friday.
Local politicians have spent several years lobbying the province for increased GO train service between Waterloo Region and Toronto.
Currently, two trains leave Kitchener for Toronto in the morning, and two return trips arrive in the evening.
The province has pledged support for increased service. The biggest hold-up, officials have said, is that a 30-kilometre stretch of the rail line east of Georgetown is owned by CN Rail.
Speaking to CTV News, Vernile said that “high-level discussions” have been ongoing about finding a way around that problem – and that more information could be made public within months.
“We are going to be moving forward with a very substantial announcement, that will happen before the summer, to talk about the build-out – how and when this is going to happen,” she said.
“We’re looking at liberating the corridor. We’re moving aggressively on this.”
Vernile cautioned that full two-way, all-day service could be up to seven years away, but said the government’s plans also include an “interim solution” allowing people to travel between the two cities “faster and more frequently.”
For Harris, news of a future announcement is less important than what happens after the announcement itself.
“It’s all talk until we actually see it come through,” he said.
Regional Chair Ken Seiling, too, says he’ll be watching closely to see if the province lives up to its promises.
“A lot of provincial budgets are filled with good intentions – the trick now is to make sure that those good intentions are followed through on,” he said.
“We’re doing all the things that they’ve asked us to do in terms of land-use planning and intensification, so I think it’s reasonable to expect that they’ll support us.”
Other local transportation projects referenced in Thursday’s budget include:
- Building a new Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph; according to the Ministry of Transportation, advance work for this project began in 2015 and will continue this year, but an exact date for the actual start of construction has yet to be determined
- More GO bus service for Brantford and Cambridge, with further details to be announced
- Widening of Highway 401 to 10 lanes between Hespeler and Townline roads in Cambridge; MTO says design work for this project has begun and construction is expected to start in 2018