ON: Pickering Residents Welcome Rapid Transit Proposal

News of a potential new transit system along Hwy. 2 is receiving a warm welcome from residents.

Staff from Durham Region Transit and contractor Aecom were on hand at the Pickering Town Centre on Oct. 29 for a public information session to inform residents about the proposal to install a third, bus-only lane along Hwy. 2 through Ajax and Pickering as part of a new bus rapid transit service.

"This will address the most congested areas of Hwy. 2," said James Garland, project manager of Durham Region's rapid transit office, noting six key intersections are being targeted.

"In these areas we will widen the road to increase road capacity. The idea is that this will be the beginning of higher order transit in the area."

The targeted intersections along Kingston Road include Whites Road, Liverpool and Brock roads in Pickering and Westney Road, Harwood Avenue and Salem Road in Ajax.

The system will employ intelligent transportation systems, which use traffic signal prioritization to change lights when buses are running late, to ensure vehicles remain on schedule. Dedicated bicycle lanes would also be created as part of the project.

Residents expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of improved transit in the area.

"The idea for dedicated cycling lanes and bus lanes is amazing, it's about time," said Lore Benjung, a Whitby resident. "If it's approved I think it would be amazing for Durham Region and really help with traffic congestion."

Ajax resident Simon Tonekham came to the information session to learn more about an innovation he said would make his life much easier.

"I believe this project will bring a lot of economic benefits and encourage people to take transit and get out of their cars," he said.

"What I really like is the use of transit priorities like bus-only lanes. Priorities should be given to transit vehicles because it will make buses more punctual and reliable."

Although not a regular transit user, Pickering resident Lori Gertzos brought along her children Christina, 10, and Anthony, 12, to learn more about the project.

"It's a great idea to widen the lanes, especially because when you look at Ajax, that's where everything is, the centre of the city is there and then in Pickering, there's nothing," she said.

"I think widening the highway will bring a lot more development here which is great, it's very good for Pickering. I think it's also really fantastic for commuters who are going into Toronto and it could encourage people to consider using transit more."

Provincial funding of $82 million has already been secured for the project, which has been approved by regional council. It is currently the subject of an environmental assessment. Once the assessment has been approved, the project will proceed to the construction stage. If no objections are made to the environmental assessment, Mr. Garland estimates construction could begin as early as 2012, with road work phased from 2013 to 2015 to minimize traffic impacts. The service is proposed to start in 2013.

For more information on the project, visit www.durhambrt.ca.

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