For many years people have been using the spur line trail (from Wilhelm and Weber to Willow street in Waterloo) to walk and cycle between Kitchener and Waterloo. But it has never been maintained, except by the footprints of local wanderers. It has been both well known and "rough hewn." The idea of creating a paved and lighted trail was studied and approved by the region but there were no funds allocated.
Last fall Metrolinx became a surprise player in this story by offering partial funding for this project. There is an article about the spur line proposal here.
Waterloo Region had an open house on February 26, 2015 to discuss all elements of the trail including its proposed completion date of October 2015. It is happening fast!
If you would like information on this project Waterloo Region there is web page with links to all the information here. The information letter is here and the link to all the display material (which is the quickest way to get an overview of the project) is here.
This is a great project that will make it much easier to walk and bike between Kitchener and Waterloo and it looks like everything has been thought out and designed very well. It will be a 'gateway' between the two cities. We applaud the many levels of government that have worked together to build a link between our communities.
The MHBPNA would like to draw attention to one small quote in the "Information Package" document. It states "The Waterloo Spur Line crosses Weber Street in the vicinity of Wilhelm Street. Concern was raised by local residents about the safety of pedestrians and cyclists using the proposed Spur Line rail or attempting to cross Weber Street to access Lippert Park and schools in the area. A pedestrian cross over at this location was incorporated into the plans for the reconstruction and widening of Weber Street. The reconstruction of Weber Street was initiated in June 2013 and is expected to be complete by May 2015. The installation of the pedestrian crossover at the Wilhelm Street intersection will occur in the spring of 2015 as part of the final phases of construction."
The "concern" raised by residents and by the Mt Hope - Breithaupt Park Neighbourhood Association was for the safety of adults, children and handicapped people crossing Weber Street after it had been widened to four lanes. Initially, the Region had planned only for a pedestrian island to be placed at the Wilhelm Street crossing in the middle of a busy four-lane street. The MHBPNA lobbied politicians, encouraged residents to write letters and made presentations to regional council. Eventually, this resulted in Regional Council approving a pedestrian activated crosswalk (called a "pedestrian cross over" in the Spur Line documentation).
It is important to MHBPNA that we keep our history straight. The pedestrian crossover was not simply "incorporated into the plans" for Weber street. It was fought for by the residents who wrote letters and by the MHBPNA. The fact we achieved this has subsequently affected the design of the Weber Street widening because it has made Wilhelm and Weber a focal point and now they will build "a new multi-use trail on the west side of the widened road from Wilhelm Street to Water Street to provide a more direct route for pedestrians and cyclists wishing to access the existing GO/VIA Station, the future King Victoria Transit hub and the downtown core of Kitchener." The crosswalk will also make it much easier for cyclists and pedestrians to cross Weber street to the east side and continue their trip to several destinations including the Breithaupt Centre, Lancaster Street or across the Margaret Avenue Bridge to Centre in the Square.
So we applaud both staff and politicians at the city, regional and provincial level for making this happen. But we do not want to forget that it was individual citizens and the MHBPNA who helped shape these projects and make them better for everyone.