Over 15 years, dozens of reports, hundreds of political statements, an unprecedented number of political flip-flops and probably more #HamOnt tweets that any other topic — not withstanding all of this, there is a whole new LRT proposal being considered.
This one, running from McMaster University to Gage Avenue (but not Gage Park) seems to be keeping with the great Hamilton political tradition of finding ways to ruin the best plans.
Since 1982, our best laid civic projects have been subject to endless debates at City Council, everyone becomes frustrated, and then a “saviour” proposal is draw on the back of a napkin.
Due to exhaustion, the napkin is quickly declared the greatest idea ever, and thus starts the next scene of Hamilton’s ongoing civic deficiency.
Instead of a proper LRT, after 15 years of drama, we have nothing and desperately will take anything.
The Province is saying the provincial treasury will commit $1-billion to the project, and that the Federal government needs to figure out the rest which will be some combination of federal money and financing from LiUNA’s pension fund to cover the municipal contribution.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger, who has stated LRT is his top priority for eight of his ten years as mayor, says he is pleased the province remains committed to some form of LRT in Hamilton and is identifying this as one of five priority GTHA transit projects.
LiUNA is quoted, a clear indication of how far along their financing plans are. LiUNA is a powerful political machine in our region, which is reflected in their being quoted alongside politicians in this government release.
Shovel Ready is the Political Consideration, With Land Already Acquired
Along with today’s press release, the Province of Ontario released a “Hamilton Rapid Transit Benefits Report” from Metrolinx which measures various mass transit options.
The report states the key reason LRT is on the table is expected federal infrastructure spending in the coming year as part of a package of incentives to stimulate the economy post-COVID. It is “shovel-ready”, whereas BRT alternatives are at least two, likely four years away from construction.
Further, Metrolinx acquired all the land necessary for LRT and this represents sunk costs.
The report does not explain why Gage Avenue for the new terminus. One does not need a report to know the reason – the significant cost of tunnelling under the CPR rail line just east of Gage Avenue.
A LRT terminus requires bus connections. There is no where to build the necessary infrastructure for buses at Gage Avenue North and King Street East. Further, the layout of neighbourhood streets presents a challenge for buses to use streets as a loop.
Expect the final terminus to become the Stadium at Cannon Street and Balsam Avenue, using the parking lot of the former King George Elementary School as the LRT phase one terminus to facilitate bus connections.
Longer-term, once a hope for expansion of LRT to Eastgate Square occurs, this spur will be particularly useful for servicing events at the stadium and placing relief trains mid-system to respond to demand or delays.
Is this latest LRT plan good for Hamilton compared to a full run to Eastgate Square? Will it represent a first phase? These are questions for which reasonable people can have differing answers.
Now it all depends on financing and if the LRT comes back to Council for another vote.