What’s up with LRT?
Over the last few months, planning for the development of the Hamilton light rail transit has been underway, with construction expected to kick off next year and wrap up in 2024. However, Doug Ford’s promise to abandon his predecessor’s funding plan may put the project in jeopardy.
The 1.3 billion dollar LRT, which was introduced by former premier Kathleen Wynne in 2015, is expected to span 14 kilometers, running from McMaster University to Eastgate Square, through downtown Hamilton and making 17 stops along Main Street, King Street and Queenston Road Corridor.
The McMaster University stop will be located on the north side of Main Street West at the intersection of Cootes Drive.
According to Kris Jacobson, the director of the LRT project office for the City of Hamilton, the university’s stop will consist of two passenger platforms separated by LRT stops, one for each direction.
“Metrolinx and McMaster are also proposing to construct a joint transit terminal and parking garage on an existing surface parking lot adjacent to the LRT stop,” said Jacobson.
The proposed parking addition would likely require an agreement between Metrolinx and McMaster. Discussions for which are afoot.
It’s also worth noting that the Longwood Road Bridge, a sixty-two-year-old bridge atop Highway 403, will be reconstructed to support the LRT tracks to the storage facility, which will sit in the Longwood Road South, Frid Street and Chatham Street area.
“The new bridge will be widened to accommodate sidewalks on both sides and the addition of a bi-directional cycle-track on the east side of the road will connect and extend the existing cycle-track and multi-use past south of Frid Street,” said Jacobson.
#HamOnt is growing, with 780,000 expected in population by 2041. #DYK @HamiltonLRT is a key part of preparing for that growth, and will be one of many types of transit moving more people across the city pic.twitter.com/BMqd55Yce4
— Crosstown (@CrosstownTO) August 16, 2018
While LRT planning has continued apace, the project is being threatened by Ford’s April 2018 promise to quash Wynne’s LRT-only investment plan. Alternatively, Ford has proposed giving Hamilton City Council the ability to decide what the one billion gets used for.
In the wake of Ford’s decision and against the backdrop of a looming Hamilton municipal election, LRT debates have resurfaced.
According to Joey Coleman, a municipal affairs journalist in Hamilton, the LRT issue may define the mayoral race.
“Hamilton has a tradition of single-issue elections for the past three decades,” said Coleman. "Ultimately, Premier Doug Ford will decide. If he offers Council no-strings-attached funding in exchange for cancelling LRT, in many wards, all the candidates are saying they'd take that deal over building LRT.”
In these renewed discussions, the McMaster Students Union will take a pro-LRT stance.
“As the MSU is meeting with Ward One candidates, we are highlighting our pro-LRT stance and explaining the benefits of the project to students,” said Stephanie Bertolo, MSU vice president (Education). “After the new council is elected, if there is a vote that could potentially stop the LRT project from progressing, we will run another #YesLRT campaign where we will have students voice to Council the importance of the project.”
Doug Ford’s recently implemented hiring and discretionary spending freeze has put a pause on Metrolinx’s land purchases for LRT in Hamilton. Nevertheless, Jacobson says LRT planning will continue amid the freeze and the growing concerns that the new Council will scrap the transit project.
“The Hamilton LRT project continues to move forward per our Council’s direction,” said Jacobson.
Submissions for proposals to design, build and finance the LRT will be evaluated in the summer of 2019 and construction will commence quickly thereafter.