Hamilton mayor says cancellation of LRT by province is a ‘betrayal’
TORONTO -- The Mayor of Hamilton said he was “devastated” by news that the Progressive Conservative government will be cancelling a 17-stop light rail transit line that was planned for the city.
In a statement released on Monday afternoon, Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said the province will no longer fund the project because the costs are higher than anticipated.
“It is frustrating news, but the stark fiscal reality is that the project will actually cost five times more than the previous government led us all to believe,” she said in the statement.
Premier Doug Ford had promised to fund the Hamilton LRT during the 2018 election, a continuation of a pledge by the former Liberal government in 2014 to provide the city with $1 billion for the project.
In an exclusive interview with CTV News Toronto on Monday, Ford said that it would cost $3 billion to build the LRT, but with the cost of operation it would be closer than $5 billion.
“Right now it’s on hold basically until they come up with some funding. I wouldn’t want to put that burden on the taxpayers of Hamilton.”
Ford said that the Kathleen Wynne government was not honest with the people of Hamilton about the true cost of the LRT.
“The previous government knew it was more and they just weren’t honest about it at the time,” he said.
He also said that the province would earmark the $1 billion planned for the LRT for future transit projects in Hamilton.
The 17-stop LRT was to run along a 14-kilometer stretch from McMaster University through downtown Hamilton to Eastgate. The project is still listed on the Metrolinx website, where it is described as a “rebirth for the Main-King-Queenston corridor.”
“Hamilton LRT is one of the largest infrastructure investments in the city’s history and will protect for future growth through segregated LRT lines,” the website says.
Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger told CTV News Toronto that he did not know the province was going to cancel the project until the statement was released. He said that the government put a hold on the project three months before requests for proposal bids were to be accepted.
Those proposals, he said, would have shown the true cost of the LRT.
“I think it is a betrayal of the people of Hamilton,” he said. “I and many of our community are distraught and very disappointed. It was very unfortunate the minister couldn’t face the citizens of Hamilton to give them the news.”
Eisenberger said that the promise of a LRT has inspired hundreds of millions of dollars in investments, from affordable housing to commercial projects. He also said it was critical to their climate change commitments.
Meanwhile, the Ontario New Democratic Party has said they will “fight like hell to save the Hamilton LRT.”
“There is no doubt the Liberal government dragged its feet and failed to get the LRT construction moving before turning the project over to Mr. Ford,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who is the MPP for Hamilton Centre, in a statement. “But we’ve seen this time and time again over the last 18 months: Doug Ford makes stuff up to justify deep cuts. It’s a betrayal — especially after Mr. Ford and Conservative MPP Donna Skelly repeatedly told Hamiltonians that they’d build this LRT.”
The province has created the Hamilton Transportation Task Force to determine a “list of alternative transportation projects” that can be funded by the government.