KITCHENER -- The Region of Waterloo can now seek funding from the provincial and federal governments for the next phase of the ION.

On Monday, regional officials announced Ontario has approved the Transit Project Assessment process, which started in December 2020.

Stage Two of the project will extend the ION into Cambridge, starting at Fairway Mall and ending at downtown Galt. There are eight stops planned along the way.

In February, the region asked residents to share their thoughts on the project and discussed the environmental impact of the proposed route. The public review process was the final step before the region submitted applications for funding. This stage is expected to cost $1.3 billion.

Regional officials said Monday this is one of four major milestones for LRT projects.

"What does Stage Two mean to Cambridge? As you've heard from everyone (Monday), it means investment, strategic planning," Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry said. "But, we look at Stage Two as a real investment. This has been years in the making. It means not only an investment in our community, but also an investment in our future."

McGarry said the next stage will benefit both residents and businesses.

"We're thrilled that this project has been approved, we're thrilled that we are one step closer to creating an even more inclusive, sustainable and connected community," Chair Karen Redman said. "Onward to Cambridge!"

Construction could begin by 2028, with a projected completion date of 2032.

The ION opened to the public exactly two years ago on June 21, 2019.