Ni­a­gara ea­ger for daily GO trains

Re­gion wants to have trains reach Ni­a­gara Falls for 2021 Canada Sum­mer Games

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - PAUL FORSYTH Ni­a­gara This Week

THOROLD — Top of­fi­cials with the pro­vin­cial agency that over­sees GO Tran­sit ex­pan­sion say it would take a Her­culean ef­fort to fast-track plans for daily com­muter trains to Ni­a­gara.

That said, they told re­gional coun­cil re­cently ev­ery­thing hu­manly pos­si­ble is be­ing done to have trains rum­bling into St. Catharines and Ni­a­gara Falls sooner than the fore­casted six-year time frame.

Last sum­mer, the prov­ince an­nounced GO com­muter train ex­pan­sion into Ni­a­gara but plans don’t call for the first trains to reach Grimsby un­til 2021. St. Catharines and Ni­a­gara Falls are sched­uled for two years af­ter that.

The re­gion is push­ing hard to have trains reach the Ni­a­gara Falls sta­tion in time for the 2021 Canada Sum­mer Games, for which Ni­a­gara had the win­ning bid.

Gerry Cha­put and Erin Moroz with Metrolinx — the pro­vin­cial agency over­see­ing trans­porta­tion in­vest­ments in­clud­ing GO ex­pan­sion — told re­gional coun­cil the ex­pan­sion in­volves far more than just sched­ul­ing more trains.

“We have a mas­sive build ahead of us,” said Cha­put, chief cap­i­tal of­fi­cer.

That in­cludes new train track, crossovers, bridge work, grad­ing, re-sig­nalling, a train lay­over fa­cil­ity in Ni­a­gara Falls, re­fur­bish­ing of the ex­ist­ing train sta­tions in Ni­a­gara Falls and St. Catharines, a new train sta­tion in Grimsby, four level-cross­ing up­grades, prop­erty ac­qui­si­tion and stud­ies.

Ni­a­gara Falls Coun. Selina Vol­patti stressed the im­por­tance of the up­com­ing Canada Sum­mer Games, which will draw thou­sands of ath­letes, coaches and vis­i­tors from across Canada.

“It’s within the realm of pos­si­bil­ity that if ev­ery­thing goes right, we may have it (GO to Ni­a­gara Falls) by 2021?” she asked.

“Th­ese would look pretty rosy if I said that,” Cha­put said, tak­ing off his glasses.

“We’re work­ing as hard as we can to try and meet the time frames that you’re look­ing at,” he said. “(But) it’s a mon­u­men­tal task to try to re­duce that by two years.”

Moroz, di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and com­mu­nity re­la­tions, said later Metrolinx will need to buy new trains to ex­pand the ser­vice to Ni­a­gara be­cause its fleet is al­ready fully de­ployed at rush hour in other parts of On­tario.

The agency is aware Ni­a­gara wants GO trains reach­ing Ni­a­gara Falls by 2021, but it’s sim­ply too early to tell if that will be pos­si­ble, she said.

St. Catharines Mayor Wal­ter Sendzik sug­gested Metrolinx im­me­di­ately ex­pand its cur­rent week­end sum­mer train ser­vice to Ni­a­gara to in­clude the fall and win­ter months be­cause more peo­ple are trav­el­ling to Ni­a­gara nowa­days in what used to be con­sid­ered the off-tourism sea­son.

Sendzik also asked for re­as­sur­ances the GO train com­muter ser­vice ex­pan­sion will def­i­nitely go ahead, not­ing some Ni­a­gara res­i­dents were skep­ti­cal af­ter last sum­mer’s an­nounce­ment due to the time it will take to hap­pen.

“The gov­ern­ment has com­mit­ted to it from our point of view,” said Moroz. “It’s a fully funded pro­gram.”

The re­gion has com­mit­ted $40 mil­lion to­ward the ex­pan­sion of GO com­muter trains to Ni­a­gara and plans to es­tab­lish a new GO im­ple­men­ta­tion of­fice with staff, in­clud­ing a project di­rec­tor and project co­or­di­na­tor.

Asked if there is a need for such an of­fice, Moroz told politi­cians “there is def­i­nitely go­ing to be a suf­fi­cient amount of work that is go­ing to be com­ing your way.”

The Metrolinx of­fi­cials said the agency will shortly be work­ing with re­gional staff on con­sul­ta­tions on GO sta­tion hubs.

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