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Province announces multi-faceted plan for improving southwestern Ontario transit

Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney announcing a transportation plan for southwestern Ontario. Left to right: Ed Holder, Jeff Yurek, Caroline Mulroney.
Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney announcing a transportation plan for southwestern Ontario. Left to right: Ed Holder, Jeff Yurek, Caroline Mulroney. Sawyer Bogdan / 980 CFPL

The provincial government is looking to improve transportation in southwestern Ontario with the first draft of its transportation plan, Connecting the Southwest.

Speaking at the announcement, Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney said the Ford government is committed to improving transportation beyond the Greater Toronto Area.

“For all of us, southwestern Ontario matters. Encouraging economic growth, supporting the creation of good, well-paying jobs, and building strong connections between communities within southwestern Ontario matters.

The announcement was made at the London Transit Bus Depot before noon on Friday and comes on the heels of funding announcements for intercity bus travel and 10 transit projects in London.

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The Community Transportation Grant Program previously announced $14.8 million in funding for 12 municipalities and the Canada Infrastructure Program is investing $103 million for transit projects in London.

READ MORE: Intercommunity transit service to connect London to Sarnia

The plan addresses multiple types of transportation, looking at how to improve highway, bus, rail and air travel in the region.

To address commuter traffic, the province plans to widen Highway 3 to four lanes from Essex to Leamington and reduce the number of cars on the road by encouraging carpooling with more carpool parking lots.

One of the key actions in the plan talks about having rail travel for communities.

Although she would not answer questions about the timing and specifics of what that would mean, Mulroney spoke about the province’s willingness to move forward on the plan using existing infrastructure for routes like London to Toronto.

“We are working with Via and GO to increase capacity on that network, and we are in the testing phase.”

“I look forward to being able to announce something in the future on increasing capacity and service levels to London.

Transportation Action Canada president Terry Johnson says it is encouraging to see the province taking people’s concerns in the region seriously.

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“Since we lost a lot of community bus services many years ago, it’s becoming increasingly expensive to get to medical appointments, and it cost the health system a lot of money because people miss appointments,” Johnson said.

“We speak to hundreds of people in public meetings over the last decade, and you have got to have a plan that works for Lucan, Goderich and Highgate, not just London and Kitchener.”

Johnson said he wants the federal government to get on board to support the plan with an investment in improving the region’s rail transportation.