Planning and Works Meeting Summary

Today the Region of Waterloo’s Planning and Works Committee is meeting at 9:00am in Council Chambers at 150 Frederick St., Kitchener. Here’s a run-down on important projects and reports that are being brought forward.

Staff have completed a feasibility study on a pedestrian/cyclist bridge over the 401 in Cambridge. Three locations were considered — just east of Hespeler Road, mid-way between Hespeler Road and Franklin Boulevard, and at Franklin Boulevard. The Franklin Boulevard location was recommended. They recommend that if the Province will go forward with planned widening of the 401 by 2015 and thus replace the Franklin Boulevard interchange, that the new bridge include pedestrian and cyclist facilities. Otherwise they recommend building a pedestrian/cyclist bridge directly adjacent to the current bridge. Cost estimates are $2.4M for a separate bridge, and $1.7M for integrating facilities into a new Franklin Boulevard interchange.

University of Waterloo graduate students have voted for a universal transit pass, and the U-Pass is coming up for official approval. The pass would become effective May 1, 2010, with students paying $50.42 for the first term, and $52.94 per subsequent term until August 31, 2011, when the agreement would come up for renewal. Pending negotiation with UW undergraduate students, fees starting in September will be the same for all UW and WLU students. The fees are designed so the change is revenue-neutral for GRT.

Currently Ontario has a Provincial Sales Tax (PST) exemption on bicycle sales under $1000 until the end of the year. Staff propose to request the Province to extend this to the roll-out of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) and past the end of the year. They also propose that the exemption apply to all human-powered cycles and to the first $1000 of such cycles. If the exemption is not extended, the request is that all HST revenues from the sale of cycles be directed to cycling infrastructure projects.

Staff report on Moving Forward 2031, the development of the Regional Transportation Master Plan (RTMP). The RTMP plans for investment in Rapid Transit, the bus network, and strategic road improvements, for changes to planning policy, and for travel demand management (TDM) initiatives — with the intention of increasing the modal share of transit from 5% to 17% by 2031. The recommendation is to fund necessary transit improvements with a yearly increase of 1% in the tax levy for operations and maintenance. Changes in the fare strategy and development charges are to also be considered. An additional road interchange with Highway 401 is recommended for the area west of the Grand River.

Draft design guidelines are presented for regional transportation corridors (and importantly, the emphasis is away from just “roads”). The guidelines propose a hierarchy of roads and establish recommendations for incorporating elements for transit priority, active transportation, and attractive boulevard design into road layouts.

Both the RTMP and the Regional Transportation Corridor Guidelines will be presented at upcoming public consultations, and feedback for the guidelines will be incorporated into a final version for June.

In light of current traffic and projections due to Rapid Transit along King Street, various options are being considered for removing the two-lane bottleneck on Weber Street in Kitchener by the spur line, and grade-separation is being proposed for the Weber Street crossing of the main line railway in Kitchener. Public consultations will be held later this month.

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