By Doug Hallett
Mayor Karen Farbridge hopes a new federal infrastructure program for municipalities could help realize the dream of two-way commuter GO train service to this area.
A business case for having two-way commuter trains to boost an “innovation corridor” from Toronto to Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo was discussed last Friday with Minister of Public Works and Government Services Diane Finley, says Farbridge.
The meeting with Finley came a day after the federal government announced more details of its infrastructure funding plans. This includes a new 10-year, $14-billion Building Canada Fund that’s set to go into effect April 1.
“The economic development and job creation opportunities identified in the business case are well aligned with the federal government’s goals for jobs, growth and prosperity,” Farbridge said in an email to the Tribune.
“Our visit was extremely timely,” she said of the meeting with Finley that she attended along with Mayor Brenda Halloran of Waterloo, Mayor Carl Zehr of Kitchener and Waterloo Regional Chair Ken Seiling, as well as other city and private sector representatives.
The same 90-page business case was presented late last year to the province by the cities of Guelph, Kitchener and Waterloo and the Region of Waterloo.
At that time, local MPP Liz Sandals said there is a lot of interest within the provincial government in the business case for frequent two-way GO train service that would support the “fluid workforce” that works in the IT sector. However, she said it would be a very expensive project requiring double-tracking between Georgetown and Kitchener.
The idea for the innovation corridor goes beyond the information technology sector. Guelph’s expertise in innovations in the biotechnology and auto-industry areas of the economy would contribute to the innovation corridor, Farbridge has said.
Meanwhile, city hall is also eyeing federal plans for infrastructure funding as a possible source of money for other projects, including redevelopment of the Baker Street Parking Lot, which would include a new main library.
The city was pleased to learn last week of $1.25 billion in additional federal funding under the P3 Canada Fund for public-private partnerships, said city CFO Al Horsman.
City staff are talking with federal officials about projects such as the Baker Street redevelopment project, he said in an email.
Horsman said city hall welcomes the new details unveiled last Thursday about the $14-billion Building Canada Fund.
The city hopes to apply for funding under this fund once more is known about eligibility criteria and evaluation frameworks, Horsman said.
By Doug Hallett