Originally expected for release this fall, advocates are now anticipating that a regional transportation plan for Southwestern Ontario will be pushed into the new year.
Terence Johnson, president of Transport Action Canada, said he previously heard the Ministry of Transportation’s plan was coming in November.
“We will continue to be hopeful that we’ll see something sooner rather than later,” he said.
When asked about the status of the plan, the Ministry of Transportation stated in an email: “The ministry is working to release a transportation plan for Southwestern Ontario in due course. Please stay tuned for more information.”
Johnson said he doesn’t believe there should be any delay for the plan.
“There’s no need for this to be a long-term project,” he said. “The mistake the previous government made was to do something that was going to take more than a single term of office to study, rather than do something that could be done and deliver results, and then move on from there and deliver more results.”
In its first budget in April, the province promised a regional transportation plan would be coming in the fall while hitting pause on a high-speed rail system to connect Southwestern Ontario to Toronto.
As part of this promised plan, Doug Ford’s government has said it will widen the London-Tilbury stretch of Highway 401 to six lanes from four and add the median barriers.
The plan is also expected to consider other services such as inter-city busing, issues key in a region that’s seen an erosion of rail passenger and busing services and where many want improved links to the Toronto region.
Transport Action Canada says the most pressing need in Southwestern Ontario is for CN to provide additional train paths to Via Rail on the main line between Burlington, London and Sarnia.
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, who has long lobbied for improved transportation, said there needs to be more consultation with average citizens, not just municipal officials and similar stakeholders.
He said he expected an announcement soon concerning inter-city bus transportation between such centres as Sarnia, London and Strathroy.
In other transportation developments, a light-rail project in Hamilton was cancelled Monday after the provincial government said the project would cost more than five times its original price tag.
Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said the government would no longer fund the 17-stop project but would create a task force to help it decide how to spend a billion dollars on transit in the city.
The 14-kilometre project was estimated to cost $1 billion when the previous Liberal government committed to funding it in 2014. The Progressive Conservatives promised during the 2018 election to move ahead with it, but Mulroney said Monday the cost had now ballooned to $5.5 billion.
Bradley called it “stunning” when he learned of the government’s LRT decision, given the time, effort and co-operation that had went into the preliminary stages.
“It’s a job creator, it’s a job keeper, when you upgrade your transportation system,” he said. “I’m hoping that whatever they’ve promised for Southwestern Ontario is written in blood.
“It’s needs to be there that we can say, ‘This is the plan, we are going to support it and it’s going to happen.'”
– With Canadian Press files