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Commentary
Hwy. 174 EA should include light rail

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

The city's transportation committee is expected to discuss a staff recommendation this week to proceed with the Environmental Assessment for the future widening of Hwy. 174 from the Split to Canaan Road.

The Environmental Assessment will take into account anything that could be affected by a construction project, such as noise, air quality, archeology and the natural surroundings. The work will also assess what conditions exist for construction, how much it will cost and what the public thinks about the project.

One would expect the EA will also take into account the benefits of extending light rail from Blair to Trim Road. If not it will be a complete waste of time.

Extending light rail from Blair to Trim would complete negate the need to widen the highway because it would take thousands of commuters off the road. It would also make it possible to convert the existing bus only lanes to High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes during the rush hour.

Aside from completing Phase 1 of the light rail project, extending light rail to Trim Road should be this city's number one priority.In fact, in a perfect world it would be Phase 1B.

You don't need a crystal ball to foresee that stopping light rail at Blair Road is going to be problematic, especially when you have thousands of commuters having to get off buses to transfer to the trains.

A good portion of those people will take a pass and climb into their cars instead.

Extending light rail to Trim Road would maintain the socio-economic centre of Orléans along the Hwy. 174/St. Joseph Blvd. corridor. It would reinvigorate the Heart of Orléans. It would boost public transit use and it would save taxpayers dollars by not having to widen Hwy. 174 to six lanes plus the bus lanes.

Extending light rail to Trim Road was one of the pillars of my city council campaign. Ninety per cent of the people I talked to at the door agreed with me. The 10 per cent that didn't said they seldom use Hwy. 174 and rarely travel downtown.

A very wise friend of mine once said that good ideas never grow old. Extending light rail to Trim Road is a great idea that needs to be included in the proposed Environmental Assessment.

(Posted 7:30 a.m., Jan. 31)

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