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Council to develop application for London Transit facility renovations

London, Ontario's city hall as seen in October 2021. Matthew Trevithick / Global News

London, Ont., is now one step closer to a newly renovated transit headquarters after city council members voted to develop a joint application for a new London Transit Commission (LTC) facility on Highbury Avenue.

The application is set to be processed through a collaboration with LTC staff and the deputy city manager, as well as the city’s finance supports, environment and infrastructure, and civic administration.

Read more: Councillors keen on making London, Ont. a regional transportation hub

The motion was passed during Wednesday’s strategic priorities and policy (SPPC) meeting.

The plan to replace LTC headquarters was recently “fast tracked” after the federal government moved up the application deadline for London’s city hall to spend the remaining $119.3 million that was originally intended to be used for the construction of the west and north route of the bus rapid transit system (BRT).

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During Wednesday’s meeting, London Transit General Manager Kelly Paleczny referenced a study performed in 2019 where city council approved three of the five proposed routes.

“Indications at that time were that this facility could be a phased implementation of knocking down and rebuilding on site (which) would happen between three and four years for the entire project,” Paleczy explained, saying that this process will ensure the continuation of the storage and maintenance of LTC buses on the property amid construction.

Read more: London, Ont. to gain another intercity bus provider with daily trips to the GTA

“Should the funding be approved, that’s plenty of time to get the project off the ground and completed by the 2033 deadline,” she said.

According to Paleczy, the new facility will be able to house and maintain a larger fleet of transit buses and provides room for the organization to advance an eventual transition to electric buses.

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The recommendation was first discussed during a strategic priorities and policy (SPPC) meeting in June 2021 and stems from a motion that was put forward by Mayor Ed Holder and Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan.

In a letter addressed to the committee, the two make reference to the province’s creation of the Southwestern Ontario Transportation Task Force (SWOTTF), as well as a pledge from the federal government to explore enhancing passenger rail service in the region as Greyhound announced the shut down of its Canadian operations last year.

According to a recent report to the SPPC, this LTC renovation project is the only transit mega-project ready to meet the new federal government application deadline.

Council originally intended to create a list of projects for consideration by senior governments amid the development of the city’s Mobility Master Plan– a plan that will determine how London prioritizes transportation as well as mobility infrastructure, programs and policies for the next 25 years.

But the application deadline was advanced by one year by the federal government, requiring the provincial government to revaluate its schedule and timetable.

Projects must be selected by Friday, July 29.

Read more: Feds pledge to improve passenger rail in London region, but details remain down the track

“With the recent change from the federal budget, which has required us to identify a project by the end of this month and have a full business case in by the end of November, realistically speaking, our plan to bring four projects at the end of 2020 through the Mobility Master Plan isn’t viable anymore,” said Kelly Scherr, Deputy City Manager.

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“This project, however, is important,” she added.

Ward 9 Coun. Anna Hopkins said that there still needs to be a clear understanding of what opportunities this project will bring for the city of London moving forward.

“I do represent Ward 9, which is out in the west end, and that is an area that is full of development – it’s only going to become even more challenging,” Hopkins said. “The number one concern I still hear from residents is how we move around safely, not only in our neighborhoods, but the importance of getting around and the need for other opportunities.”

Additionally, during Wednesday’s meeting, Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan expressed his confidence that the transit and transportation improvements determined through the Mobility Master Plan will provide upcoming opportunities for both Londoners and acquiring government funding from other programs for the city.

“I’m certainly going to support what’s before us today and I’m supporting the master mobility planning process as well,” Morgan said.

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