Panel recommends light-rail or bus rapid transit for Hamilton
Published Thursday, April 9, 2020 8:14PM EDT
Ontario says it will not release a third-party study of Hamilton's light-rail line that led to the project's cancellation.
TORONTO -- A panel created to recommend how Hamilton should spend a billion dollars on transit says the city needs a project like its recently cancelled light-rail line.
The provincially-appointed group issued a report today saying the city needs a “higher order” transit project to address future growth and congestion.
The group says that means either a light-rail line on the previously planned intra-city route, a truncated version of that line as a first phase, or a bus rapid transit line.
It recommends the province conduct further analysis on all of the options, giving each equal consideration.
The report comes four months after Premier Doug Ford's government scrapped the planned 14-kilometre transit line.
The province said at the time that the costs had ballooned from the initial estimate of $1 billion to $5.5 billion.
The group says if the province still finds its recommendations are not financially feasible, it should spend the money on additional GO Transit rail service to the city's centre station.
Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney established the group in the weeks after the LRT was cancelled to look at ways to spend the original billion-dollar budget to improve local transit.
On Thursday, Mulroney said she is asking the province's transit agency, Metrolinx, to work with Infrastructure Ontario to conduct technical reviews of the options.
“Our government remains committed to ensuring that the City of Hamilton gets the transit and transportation infrastructure it needs and deserves in order to connect people to places and jobs and ensure a seamless transit experience,” she said in a statement.
The 17-stop project was estimated to cost $1 billion when the previous Liberal government committed to funding it in 2014. The Progressive Conservatives promised during the 2018 election to move ahead with it, then re-committed to it in their 2019 budget last March.
The decision to cancel the project sparked outrage in Hamilton, with Mayor Fred Eisenberger calling it a betrayal that would hurt both the municipal and provincial economy.
Eisenberger said Thursday that the panel is clearly recommending the province proceed with the light-rail line.
“This has been a valuable process to the extent that it confirms ... that LRT is the best option for fulfilling the Ford government's transportation commitment to the City of Hamilton,” he said in a statement.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who represents a riding in Hamilton, said she is “pleased and bolstered” by the report.
“I am strongly urging Premier Doug Ford to reverse his cancellation of the Hamilton LRT,” she said in a statement. “He should work with the City of Hamilton and the federal government to get this LRT built.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2020.