WR and Howe: Cambridge Should Change Proposed LRT Route Through Preston Neighbourhood

Recent discussions about phase two of ION, its expansion into Cambridge, has been met with resistance from locals. While I initially thought the reaction of citizens in Cambridge as a NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) response, they definitely seem to have a case. If the LRT is to be welcomed in Cambridge, it cannot be built through a quiet residential neighbourhood.

A firsthand look at where the train is to connect with Moore Street and then turns onto Eagle Street quickly shows that the preferred route for the LRT through Preston is clearly inappropriate. The roads are narrow — too narrow to allow for the street parking other neighbourhoods value — and both sides of the streets have houses, including some heritage homes. There is not room for a single track let alone any possibility of two.

The route is not much better after it crosses King Street. While it becomes much busier, it continues to be narrow without any room for widening and mostly lined with houses until it arrives at where Speedsville Road becomes Concession Drive.

Even if expropriation made this stretch possible, it is too blunt of an instrument to consider for the neighbourhood where the LRT is to land after crossing the Speed River. The preferred route is a non-starter and that is why Regional Council made a good call in late June calling upon staff to identify alternatives.

When the next round of consultations occurs in the fall, it should do more than identify alternatives and in fact scrap the currently preferred route. Give Preston residents the peace of mind they need and allow them to move forward with their lives including selling their homes at market prices.

I strongly support extending the LRT to Cambridge. Having been a long time vocal supporter of the project, I hoped to see tracks to downtown Galt included in the initial phase because, as I wrote at the time, “Doing so will help to ensure that we reflect the reality of how we already live [as one community] while making it more common to think of ourselves as one region. As we grow, we’ll become more interconnected and having the LRT in place will help knit us together by making it easier to get around.”

And a stop in Preston is strongly preferred because the LRT is about more than the end of route destinations. It is mostly about where you can go in between them. Businesses in downtown Preston are to benefit especially when intensification occurs on under-used property.

The best option is the originally preferred route that parallels the CPR tracks from Freeport in Kitchener into Preston along the side of Riverside Park. Regional Council was told that preference ended when CPR refused to let the Region use that corridor.

The Region of Waterloo should not take no for an answer. It needs to find a way to make that route work just as the Province of Ontario found a solution to a similar problem that threatened all day, two way Go trains between Waterloo Region and the Greater Toronto Area. This route option is good public policy. Keep working at it till a solution is found to make it possible.