Anna Beard
CONTRIBUTOR

In March 2014, Regional Council approved GrandLinq as the preferred team to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain ION Stage 1 light rail transit. Now, construction is well underway. To give a more detailed update about construction status, and what to expect, TCE talked with Kimberly Moser, manger of community relations for the ION. She walked us through a few concerns and frequently asked questions.

TCE: Is construction still on budget?

KM: Yes. One of the key benefits of a “design, build, finance, operate and maintain public-private partnership” – like the one we have with GrandLinq – is that all of the construction and operations costs are in agreement before any work begins.

TCE: Is construction still happening on time?

KM: Yes. GrandLinq is currently on track to meet the timelines established in the project agreement. The first key milestone is in June 2016. Currently, there are many areas across the Region where ION construction – both adapted bus rapid transit and light rail transit – are underway. Building the Region’s rapid transit service is an enormous undertaking. We understand that construction can present some challenges as drivers, pedestrians and cyclists navigate in and around the construction areas and we appreciate the community’s support and patience during this time. All businesses are open during ION construction and we encourage residents to continue supporting their favourite local businesses during this time.

TCE: What has the region heard from businesses along the transit corridor?

KM: For the most part, businesses have been understanding of the need for this work to be completed. Building ION is an enormous undertaking and any construction, whether it’s ION-related or not, presents some challenges. GrandLinq and Region staff are using a wide-range of communication tools and tactics to ensure businesses in and around the construction areas are informed and kept up-to-date. This includes critical one-on-one meetings, notices, advertisements, email updates, website and social media engagement. Prior to construction, GrandLinq staff meets with businesses to understand and resolve construction-related questions or concerns. During construction, GrandLinq is in regular contact with businesses as the construction progresses. We also have wonderful partners in the BIAs as uptown Waterloo and downtown Kitchener share ION construction information with their businesses. GrandLinq has done a great job working with businesses to ensure access remains open, both for customers and deliveries.

TCE: What campaigns can we expect to surface to promote businesses affected by ION construction?

KM: Ensuring the community knows all businesses are open during ION construction is the most important message right now. We’re getting this out through stakeholder meetings, way-finding and detour signage, joint events with the BIAs, media coverage, special events, advertisements, the website and social media. Activities are ongoing and will continue to be seen in and around the community as ION construction progresses. One of the easiest ways residents can show their support is by using the #IONbiz hashtag on social media when they visit their favourite local businesses during ION construction. When used, the #IONbiz hashtag will be promoted to a wider audience by ION, the Region of Waterloo and the uptown Waterloo or downtown Kitchener BIA. As construction progresses, we’ll look at new ways to create awareness for businesses through joint events and activities, including signage, advertising and tailored social media campaigns.

TCE: We’ve already seen some effects of construction filter into uptown with the addition of a 200 iXpress stop placed at King and Bridgeport. When can we expect construction to start on King St. in uptown?

KM: We’re currently working with GrandLinq to develop a schedule that allows them to meet the requirements outlined in the project agreement, while also considering the needs of businesses on King Street. As we develop this schedule, we are getting input from the uptown Waterloo BIA and the City of Waterloo. We should have something finalized in the next few weeks.

Straight from the source, ION Light Rail Transit construction is still on time, still on budget, but Moser’s thoughts prove there is still a way
to go and that supporting local businesses is essential. In fall 2016, we can expect the delivery of the first Bombardier FLEXITY Freedom light rail vehicle, and stage 1 service from Conestoga Mall to Fairview Park Mall, starting in Fall 2017.

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter #IONdialogues. Have an opinion on the ION? Is it affecting your business? Will it make your commute easier? More difficult? Get in touch and we’ll host an #IONdialogue with you.