By Mike Williscraft
All eyes were on the “prize” Monday night at Grimsby Council as representatives from Metrolinx were on hand to provide an update on the GO system’s Niagara expansion.
With the “prize” being Grimsby’s connection and new GO station at Casablanca/South Service Road intersection, those on hand heard the course charted is “ambitious” but doable.
Off the top, Brian Gallaugher, Metrolinx’s director, project planning, noted one of the key goals of the expansion – “The Big Move”, which proposes building more than 1,200 kms of rapid transit – is having 80 per cent of residents in Niagara Region living within two kms of rapid transit.
As part of the 24-Page report, council got a look at the first draft of a site design for the new GO station land.
Mayor Bob Bentley was quick to note early and often in the discussion that the map council was seeing for the first time was a draft, a proposal, and that there would be an opportunity for input from the Town and residents.
Metrolinx officials agreed wholeheartedly this was a starting point.
The first opportunity for comment will be Tuesday, Nov. 21 when Metrolinx hosts an open house in the hall at Southward Park, 84 Mud Street. That session starts at 6 p.m. with a presentation at 6:30 p.m.
Several aspects of the site plan and service were under the microscope Monday.
Ald. Nick DiFlavio noted that frequency of service would be key to success of any program. He noted riders would not just need to access Toronto, but Hamilton as well for studies at McMaster University and Mohawk College.
“I’ve had questions from people in Lincoln and West Lincoln as well who would come here to take it, but if it is not getting them where they need to go at the right time, people won’t use it,” said DiFlavio.
Gallaugher noted that the level of service questions will need to be ironed out.
“If it is not busy, it is up to us to adjust the service,” said Gallaugher.
Parking was also a key issue. Gallaugher told council their estimates show the level of projected use for the Grimsby station at the outset will be accommodated by proposed parking on the north side of the tracks.
He said there is a possibility of expanding parking capacity, but that would be dealt with in the future.
Expansion of the site in the first go round came up as Ald. Joanne Johnston noted part of the proposed site uses a portion of the parcel of land where Starbucks and A&W currently sit.
While Gallaugher noted expropriation is possible for any piece of land deemed essential to the projects success, he stressed that was last resort.
“We would do everything in our power to entice a property owner to sell it (needed land) to us. Metrolinx can be very generous,” said Gallaugher.
While Johnston asked if the land owners were aware part of their land is expected to be used for the station site, Grimsby CAO Derik Brandt said they are up to speed.
“They won’t be surprised. They are hoping you will call,” Brandt told Gallaugher.
Ald. Dave Kadwell also asked about circumstances in which the traffic arms would cut off Casablanca Boulevard, particularly when a train sits, loading/unloading at the station.
“That could cut off traffic for along time. I hope you look at that,” said Kadwell.
Gallaugher was not sure of the detail, but said, “The train won’t hang out onto Casablanca (when stopped),” noting there is a mechanism used that detects when a train is not moving.”
“There must be a technical way to do it (elevate arms when train is stopped) because I’ve seen it.”