Despite assurances that April 2019 was the new target to build a crossing over the LRT tracks, Traynor-Vanier residents continue to wait indefinitely. Five and a half years after they started to advocating for a safe way to walk to get groceries, do their banking, grab a coffee or a bite to eat, residents continue to risk going over the tracks using an informal crossing. And they have no idea when they are to get a safe crossing.
Last July, residents organized a rally to raise awareness about the lack of progress towards a crossing they had hoped to see in 2018 when they learned that it would be a year or more before one was built–despite the LRT service had been expected to start in spring 2018 and then delayed till December 2018.
It attracted lots of media attention:
Pulling out the stops for a Vanier-Traynor crossing, The Waterloo Region Record
- Traynor-Vanier residents rally for pedestrian crossing to Fairway Road, Kitchener Today / 570 News
The rally got results. Mayor Vrbanovic arranged for the CAOs of the City of Kitchener and the Region of Waterloo to oversee this project. The timeline for the project was expedited to have in built in April 2019 when the spring construction season opened.
As reported at the time in The Record, “According to Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, the chief administrators for the region and the city, Mike Murray and Dan Chapman, met earlier this to month to identify steps and set a timeline for the joint project.
Barring further complications, Vrbanovic said a crossing should be completed by the second quarter of 2019. Construction should begin early in the new year. But city and regional politicians will have to agree.”
Ward 3 Councillor John Gazzola, who felt the heat from upset residents at the rally, made a successful motion at city council to buy the land necessary to connect the crossing to Fairway Road. (See my post from August 2018) And the Region of Waterloo finally budgeted funds to build the crossing in its 2019 budget.
But rather than celebrating these results, Traynor-Vanier residents will be lucky if they see the crossing built by the end of July. After following up with staff, I have concluded that July is again the best case scenario for the crossing to be built and it will quite likely be later.
Seven months after getting the go ahead to buy the land, the city still has not purchased any.
Nine months after the rally appeared to expedite the project, the Region has still not completed the crossing’s design that began nearly a year ago.
And even once that design is complete, the crossing still needs to jump a series of hurdles before it gets built according to staff, “We do not currently have a completion date for the works as the design must be finalized, cost estimate completed and submitted to Council for consideration. Coordination with GrandLinq is also required to complete the works.” Given Council conducts little business over the summer, it is quite possible we won’t see construction happen in 2019.
People living in Traynor-Vanier deserve better. Not only is a walkable neighbourhood a declared priority for both municipalities, it is a must for people living on low-incomes who rely on walking, biking and public transit to get around. I doubt that this project would be stuck in limbo for so many years if it affected people living in high income neighbourhoods who have the connection and means to make their voices heard and the confidence that action will result.
Political representation of Traynor-Vanier at both the Region and the city has been ineffective in dealing with a long acknowledged problem that gets dismissed as an unfortunate oversight. Staff have obviously not been directed to make getting crossing done a priority or it would be about to be built if not built when the tracks were constructed and fencing went up to cut a neighbourhood off from access to daily necessities it had always had.
Sure there are reasons why it is not being built yet. But frankly, they come across as excuses that would not impede a priority project. For example when asked why the land was not purchased yet, I was told “[the city] had to do quite a bit of pre-work (detailed design) before we knew the exact limits of what to negotiate.” But why wasn’t that already done by the end of August 2018? That was exactly they kind of work that needed to be expedited in order to have construction this spring. It actually should have been done at least a year ago so that the crossing could have been built in 2018 before we expected the trains to be running.
I’m deeply disappointed by the years of inaction on a critical piece of infrastructure for people living in Traynor-Vanier. In a city that takes pride in its neighbourhood strategy, they have every right to think they are feeling no love from city hall or regional headquarters.
Timeline compiled by James Howe and informed by resident Sam Kamminga who presented to Regional Council in October 2017 and the Social Development Centre Waterloo Region
Nov. 2013 – Advocacy for a pedestrian crossing started when LRT related work caused park and trail to close
April 2014 – First communication from LRT and Hydro One to residents; construction fence was up and the first conversations started about the future crossing over LRT.
July 2016 – Permanent fence installed on the Traynor side of the tracks; Research finding regarding other similar long stretches along the LRT corridor that cuts through a residential and commercial area is that this is a unique portion of the LRT route. At the time, still no plans for a pedestrian crossing.
Kitchener Ward Councillor advocates with the City of Kitchener Transportation Staff to do environmental assessment as they have already requested a pedestrian crossing which was denied by Grandlinq/Regional staff. Concerns remain the speed of the train, access to private land along the tracks, retrofitting the construction plan is expensive.
Aug. 2016 – The KW Tenant Group wrote to the region to say no one has communicated with residents about the long-term plans for this stretch of the light rail transit system when fencing goes up for construction of tracks.
Aug. 15, 2016 – Tritag blog post publicizes the need to fix this mistake and build a crossing.
Aug. 2016 – Residents start petition that gathers 489 signatures
Aug. 2016 – City of Kitchener initiates the study of the potential solutions. The understanding was that the City was to lead the study component, with the Region taking the lead on design/installation, all with joint funding.
October 2016 – City of Kitchener meets with residents and the Social Development Centre Waterloo Region to plan for the public consultation regarding the study of potential options forthe pedestrian crossing.
Jan. 2017 – City holds consultation to inform solving problem with Region staff involved. Social
Development Centre Waterloo Region and KW Tenant Group undertake door to door survey with the residents of Traynor-Vanier.
Oct. 2017 – Permanent fencing installed on Fairway side.
Oct. 2017 – Resident Sam Kamminga makes presentation to Regional Council. Request to present to Kitchener City Council refused since it was not on the agenda.
Dec. 2017 – City of Kitchener hosts open house with the preferred alternatives of the pedestrian crossing over LRT and KW Tenant Group collected additional responses doing door to door. City of Kitchener names a single staff member as a point person on all issues regarding the feasibility study and the process of project development to communicate with the residents and the public. The report to the Kitchener Council to be ready for Spring 2018.
Dec. 2017 – May 2018 – Apparently discussions occurred between the City and the Region to clarify responsibilities around next steps which led to the city taking on a larger component of the project. The result was the City to acquire the land as well as design and build the paths that lead to the crossing. The Region to design and build the crossing.
March 2018 – Sign posted posted by Region of Waterloo that emphasizes No Trespassing message and a brief mention of planned crossing.
– Region retains a consultant to design crossing and indicates it will not be finished until the fall making having it in place by December impossible.
– City of Kitchener staff indicates this project study will likely go to Council with a complete scope of the project/works in winter 2018/19
– Neither municipality has budgeted for this project nor found funding for it yet. They were still determining potential costs.
– Residents decide to organize rally in July
So as a result at that time, no solution was expected to be in place before summer 2019 at the earliest and it could take longer.
Late June 2018 – Mayor asks at Regional Council Meeting for CAO of City and the Region to meet and move things forward. That meeting on July 3 develops list of what needs to happen without any timeline or money.
July 14, 2018
– Rally held to push for a solution to be expedited.
– Mayor shares that staff now indicate construction can happen in early spring 2019.
Aug. 27, 2018 – Councillor Gazzola makes a motion passed by Kitchener City Council that directs staff to move forward on acquiring land needed for crossing and to identify a source to fund purchase.