The multi-use trail connecting the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market to the rest of Waterloo Region is getting closer to completion, as city and regional officials report both sections are almost complete.
The proposed trail route generally follows the LRT and railway lines and is divided into two sections or stages. Stage one will connect the LRT station on Northfield Drive to the market on Farmers Market Road. That portion is being built by the Region of Waterloo.
The City of Waterloo is building stage two of the trail, which connects the LRT station on Northfield Drive to the research park on Frank Tompa Drive in Waterloo. That stretch will connect with the city’s established Laurel trail.
Christopher Hodgson is the manager of active and autonomous transportation at the City of Waterloo. He says the city’s portion of the trail is 90 per cent complete, and this season staff will install the finishing touches such as pedestrian-level lighting, signage and painted lines along it.
This trail project is essentially a realignment of the Trans Canada Trail, known now as The Great Trail, to connect more efficiently from the business park to Farmers’ Market Road in Woolwich Township. When complete, the route will span four kilometres.
The previous route of The Great Trail is more than seven kilometres long and follows a route on and off roads roughly in line with Westmount and Benjamin roads.
“This realignment of the trail on stages one and two is really to help people move more between the residential areas to employment areas along the route, the universities and the new Ion stations and the parks as well as the border network that can kind of connect those neighborhoods,” said Hodgson.
“The planning and feasibility of this started back in about 2017 when we got some grants between us and the region to help manage the work. Now it’s starting to come to fruition, so everybody’s looking forward to it.”
Hodgson said a notable exception is where the trail crosses Weber Street.
Weber Street is being redesigned and will be reconstructed from Albert Street to Northfield Drive. When this happens the trail will be reconfigured. Until then, about 100 metres is missing in the multi-use trail.
Cyclists can dismount and use the sidewalks or use the bike lanes on the street, he says, adding the reconfiguration is expected to take place next year.
Stage one of the trail “is within the region-owned railway corridor between Farmers Market Road and Northfield Drive. Michelle Pinto, an engineer with the region, says stage one is almost complete, but lighting must be installed before it can be opened to the public. She expects that to happen in May.
Stage one and stage two will meet up at the intersection of Parkside and Northfield drives in Waterloo. Trail users can use the sidewalk or painted bike lanes to travel to the Northfield Drive Ion station and continue on the trail to the farmers’ market.
“Wayfinding signage will be installed to direct trail users accordingly,” said Pinto.
Northfield Drive is one of Waterloo’s busiest roads. It has four lanes, exit- and on-ramps to Highway 85, as well as rail tracks and a signalized road crossing.
Local cyclist Scott Clark tweeted about difficulties crossing Northfield Drive earlier this month. He says asking cyclists to rely on the green painted lines on busy Northfield Drive is a gap in the trail infrastructure
“There’s no connection there [on Northfield Drive]. Right now all that’s really there is the existing painted bike lanes, which I don’t think many people feel comfortable using,” he said.
“I’m someone who rides a few thousand kilometres a year and I think I rode on the sidewalk, partly because I wasn’t sure where the path went if there was something I was missing. But it’s a road where the average vehicle speed might be close to 70 kilometres per hour, so it’s not something that a lot of people are going to enjoy for that stretch.”
According to the mapping provided by the region, trail users can cross Northfield Drive at Parkside Drive and use the sidewalk or painted bike lanes to access the rest of the trail going to the market, or they can cross Northfield Drive at the signalized rail crossing by the Ion Station on Northfield Drive.
“The region is looking at options to extend the trail from the railway corridor behind the fire hall to the Northfield/Parkside Drive intersection, and is engaging in discussions with the private property owner for this piece,” said Pinto.