News

What it will take to get Niagara GO-ing

By Bill Sawchuk, The Standard

A GO train moves down the track in this file photo.

A GO train moves down the track in this file photo.

 

There is a lot of work to be done.

That was the message officials from Metrolinx gave regional council Thursday night as they as offered an overview of the work needed to connect Niagara to the GO Transit rail system.

“I am out in communities all the time, and residents will say, ‘I see a train and a track, so I don’t get it,’” said Erin Moroz, director of communications and community relations for Metrolinx.

“‘Why is it taking so long?’ The best I can do to explain it is say it is kind of like taking a service road and turning it into a super highway.

“If you do that you need on-ramps and off-ramps. You need a lot of infrastructure in and around that expansion in order for people to access it.”

Moroz said Metrolinx must build an additional track to Niagara. CN owns the corridor. GO Transit is a division of Metrolinx.

“There is a lot that comes along with that including bridge widenings, signal systems,” Moroz said. “It is not just a matter of adding more trains.

“The other things that are critical, and it applies to bus as well, is we only have so much fleet. People say, ‘We would love to have buses at Brock University.’ Right now, at rush hour, we deploy our full fleet. So part of expanding into Niagara region is a fleet strategy. We will need trains. We will need additional pieces. It’s pretty complicated.”

Gerry Chaput, chief capital officer of Metrolinx, said with Niagara projected to grow by almost 500,000 people by 2031, Metrolinx is working to build a transportation system to keep Niagara connected to the rest of the Golden Horseshoe.

“We have a massive build ahead of us in terms of stations and new track,” said Chaput, who lives in Port Dalhousie and commutes to Metrolinx offices at Union Station in downtown Toronto every day.

He said he leaves at 6:30 a.m., travels to Burlington and boards a GO train that gets him to his office by 8 a.m.

Moroz left open the chance the timetable could be bumped up for the Canada Summer Games, which will be held in Niagara in 2021.

“It is too early to say,” Moroz said. “We are going to see what we can do and come back. We also have to be honest about what it will take to get there.”

Some of the work Metrolinx detailed in a report to council that it is planning will take place from Lewis Road to Grimsby at Casablanca and will include a new second track including grading and re-signalling from Grimsby to Jordan.

About 11 miles of the track will include three new crossovers: rehabilitation of the Twenty Mile Creek bridge, 17 culvert extensions and 17 level-crossing upgrades.

To provide service to Niagara Falls, and future Niagara Falls layover from St. Catharines to Niagara Falls, Metrolinx will need a new second track including grading, track and re-signalling from Stanley Avenue to the Niagara Falls Via station, about two miles of track, two crossovers and four level-crossing upgrades.

All new track and crossovers require extensive corridor re-signalling work.