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Region looks to prove extending LRT into Cambridge is worth the $1.5 billion needed to build it

Stage 2 of the region's ION Rail project would see the LRT network extended from Fairview Station in Kitchener into downtown Galt
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File photo. Mark Pare/KitchenerToday

It's one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in the region's history and it's nearly time for the Region of Waterloo to justify it in search of government funding.

The region has started working on its business case proving Stage 2 of the ION rail network makes sense strategically, economically, and financially and hopes to be able to make that case by mid- to late next year.

The plan for Stage 2 would see rapid transit extended from Fairview Station in Kitchener into downtown Galt, something the region says would be ''transformational.''

"Anticipating future patterns and evolving trends, extending LRT to Cambridge will transform how Cambridge moves and works," said Karl Kiefer, a regional councillor representing the City of Cambridge.

Kiefer says the project will have a positive impact on land-use, quality-of-life, health, sustainability, and environmental stewardship.

"We're dealing with something that is going to be for the future of Cambridge and the region," said Kiefer. "I do believe it will stand well for the people of Cambridge, I'm excited about it, I think there are many people that are excited about it."

Such a "transformational" project however doesn't typically come cheap and building Stage 2 already carries an estimated price tag of $1.52 billion and Kiefer acknowledges that price is more likely to go up than stay stagnant or drop by the time it's all said and done.

He says the hope is the bulk of the bill will be funded by the provincial and federal governments.

If that funding comes through as planned and without significant delay Kiefer says he believes construction could begin as early as 2028. He says it will likely take at least four years to build, test, and commission -- meaning the earliest the rail extension would be operational is likely the fall of 2032.

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