A huge investment from the province will see millions of dollars pumped into Barrie's transit system and a reimagined bus and train stop for riders.
The Ontario government has approved more than $13 million for three local projects.
Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte MPP Doug Downey made the announcement Thursday morning at the Barrie Transit garage on Welham Road.
Downey says the money will go a long way in helping the influx of people expected to move into all areas of the city in the coming years.
“Barrie is rapidly expanding, we all know that, and it is a beautiful and vibrant place to work and play,” he said. “The Ontario government is committed to serving the needs of residents in communities like Barrie right across the province and this investment does that.
"Barrie’s transit will get a much-needed boost as the city looks towards a huge population growth in the coming years," Downey added.
The funding will go toward a trio of projects in the city.
The Allandale Mobility Hub ($3.3 million) near the lakeshore will replace the current downtown bus station and will be a two-storey terminal connecting riders to all-day GO train service in the future.
A much-needed overhaul to the city’s transit buses ($9.35 million) will see 21 specialized and 30 conventional transit buses replaced to reduce vehicle emissions and improve reliability.
Additional and replacement bus stop signs, shelters, transit ETA displays and other changes to on-street infrastructure improvements ($912,000) have also been approved and will get started in 2020, along with the other projects.
The new hub at Essa Road and Tiffin Street is projected to be complete in late 2021 or early 2022.
The total cost of the $13.5 million initiative was applauded by Mayor Jeff Lehman, who said the roughly 3.6 million riders moved this year will likely see the effect of the investment in the new buses, rather than the projected building going up near the current Allandale Waterfront GO station.
“The piece that might get overlooked, because of the graphic of the beautiful building that will be the Allandale Hub, is the enormous contribution that the government has made towards fleet replacement,” Lehman said.
“That might sound like one of the more boring things that municipalities have to worry about, but I can tell you that 51 vehicles is absolutely remarkable and is a huge part of our capital plan," the mayor added.
The projects were nominated by the provincial government under the Investing in Canadian Infrastructure Program (ICIP), which are supported by federal, provincial and other funding sources.
While the federal funding has yet to be approved, Lehman says he has no concerns it won’t be OK'd and today’s announcement was not only a formality for that, but also one of the biggest investments into local transit.
“Between the three levels of government, you’re looking at a $40 million investment over the next eight years into the capital needs of Barrie Transit,” said Lehman. “That has to be the most substantial investment ever into our transit system.”
There is a currently an archaeological dig happening at the old Allandale Station, while the location of the new hub has already been cleared in that manner.
“Our intercity buses have to try to get into an increasingly congested downtown core and it's disconnected,” Lehman said. “If you’re going to take a train in Barrie, you’re at one corner of the waterfront; if you’re going to take a bus you’re at the other. Except, of course, for some buses which stop at the water. It's confusing.”
Lehman also spoke to the year-round market that has been discussed for the current downtown bus station on Maple Avenue and said when this project is completed, it will “create the opportunity to repurpose the downtown terminal." City council has given initial approval to a food market being established at the downtown terminal site.
The new projects are expected to begin next year, with funding being distributed over multiple years and replacement buses being transitioned into the fleet over time to ensure continuity of service.