By Mike Williscraft
Proponents of bringing a permanent GO rail connection to Niagara have their eyes fixed to the west.
“There are a lot of moving parts to this thing but the whole key is to get it moving east-west,” says Grimsby Mayor Bob Bentley.
“Once they have made that turn (to Stoney Creek), they will be committed.”
Bentley was please to see some firm estimates of cost for the proposed Stoney Creek extention at Centennial Parkway come out this week.
It is the first time firm numbers have been circulated. Estimates for Grimsby’s stop on the rail line have been speculative at this point.
Hamilton’s transit director has said the cost to get the line to Stoney Creek would be $150 million, including a $35 million station.
This past Friday, Niagara’s stakeholders – mayors, CAOs, economic development officers and the regional chair all met to review the current status of the region’s efforts to generate some movement on the GO file.
“We meet to update the business case we are presenting to the provincial government,” said Bentley.
“We have very good feedback both from the premier’s office and Steven Del Duca, the Minister of Transportation.”
As to the moving parts Bentley spoke of, the government and Metrolinx, which operates the GO system, are two key ones.
“The province wants this to happen. Metrolinx doesn’t really want it to,” said Bentley.
“They think they have enough on their plate and they don’t have the money. The premier has the money and has requested that direction.”
Bentley sees the subtle signs of movement as key to long-term success of getting the Niagara line going sooner than later.
He points to the construction of the rail infrastructure at Centennial Parkway, the acquisition of a 1.5 acre lot there for a likely station and the acquisition of another parcel of land on Grimsby’s South Service Road as key planks in a Niagara GO foundation.
Also as part of the information related to the province has been things that do not need to happen, such as Metrolinx contention that a canal crossing would be a major stumbling block and cost about $175 million on its own.
“That is not the case at all. Coordinating trains has proven we would not need to go over or under the canal,” said Bentley.
“We have a letter from the St. Lawrence Seaway group saying it is a non-issue.”
In the short term, Bentley and Team Niagara are hoping to get a ramped up schedule for the Pam Am Games in July.
The group is hoping to get a meeting with Premier Kathleen Wynne scheduled before mid-March.
He said there may also be some federal interest in seeing a Niagara rail connection with a high-speed rail line currently being constructed on the U.S. side of the border.