Special Report: Light Rail

Hamilton Gets YES for an Answer

Premier announces up to $1 billion to build a light rail line in Hamilton and $150 million for a GO train extension to Centennial Parkway in Stoney Creek

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published May 26, 2015

This morning, McMaster University hosted a special press conference by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne in Convocation Hall to announce significant and long-awaited transit investments in Hamilton.

Premier Kathleen Wynne at LRT funding announcement
Premier Kathleen Wynne at LRT funding announcement

Council attendees included Mayor Fred Eisenberger, and Councillors Jason Farr, Lloyd Ferguson, Matt Green, Aidan Johnson and Terry Whitehead. City Manager Chris Murray and former mayors Larry Di Ianni and Bob Bratina were also in the audience.

You can watch a video of the event, recorded by Joey Coleman of The Public Record:

McMaster President Patrick Deane opened the event by emphasizing how he has made it his priority as President to expand the role of the University in Hamilton and work together with the City, Province and other stakeholders to increase the prosperity of the city.

Premier Kathleen Wynne then took the stage, first talking generally about the importance of infrastructure investment, quadrupling GO service and how Hamilton has always been a key part of Ontario's development, before finally getting to her big announcements.

Premier Wynne announced that the Province would invest "$1 billion to build new light rail in Hamilton".

She specified that the the line would be in an exclusive right-of-way and run from McMaster University to the Queenston traffic circle with a spur to connect to the new West Harbour GO station. The line will be extended later to Eastgate Square.

She then went on to announce that the Province would extend GO service to Centennial Parkway in Stoney Creek, with construction to start in 2017.

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca continued, in front of a looping video of Hamilton's LRT going through downtown. He stated that "Hamilton's LRT will be a crucial link" and emphasized that "Yes, I DID say L!".

Then Bruce McCuaig, CEO of Metrolinx, pointed out that this is an "exciting milestone" for the City and that he would get down to work immediately with city staff and politicians in developing the projects.

Ted McMeekin, MPP for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, was clearly the local champion of this project at Queen's Park, but he also told us that the "Premier has been a real champion for Hamilton".

Interestingly, he thanked former Mayor Bob Bratina, "who has been particularly a champion on the GO side of things."

Most gratifying for me and all the thousands of Hamilton residents who have pushed for LRT over the past eight years is that McMeekin specifically thanked LRT advocates and Hamilton Light Rail for their efforts to "keep this vision in our minds".

He jokingly "thanked" us for the "20,000 tweets" that would "just lead to another 20,000 tweets, no matter what I said." Most importantly, he told us that our efforts did make a difference: "Very sincere thanks to the champions of LRT ... you kept this thing on the rails."

Finally, Mayor Eisenberger rounded out the event, again thanking the Province for "putting the L in the RT" and saying "thanks to the advocates" hoping that "the enthusiasm will be back". He finished by saying "Let's get this thing done!".

In the question session McCuaig suggested they would build a "high order pedestrian connection to the Hunter GO station".

In response to a question about the City's last minute request for $300 million for a bus shed and improved bus services Minister Del Duca simply said that "The focus is on LRT and GO transit." and that he would "have additional conversations going forward on how the Province could support bus transit".

When asked why the line stops at Queenston, McCuaig said that it was basically a trade-off: not going as far east in order to build the spur to the West Harbour GO station. He also emphasized that this section of the line has the greatest economic development potential. But he was clear that the extension to Eastgate would be built in a second phase.

When Del Duca was asked whether the Province needed another vote from Council supporting LRT to proceed he replied emphatically no, the focus now is on building it.

Today the Province clearly and unambiguously gave Hamilton "YES" for an answer to its eight year old LRT question.

They will invest $1 billion in building the B-line LRT in Hamilton and they clearly want to get started as soon as possible. In informal comments the Mayor suggested that his proposed citizen's panel will now morph into an LRT engagement panel.

This is a great day for Hamilton and sets on the journey to building a more prosperous, attractive and dynamic city. This is also billion dollar example of why citizen engagement matters!

Nicholas Kevlahan was born and raised in Vancouver, and then spent eight years in England and France before returning to Canada in 1998. He has been a Hamiltonian since then, and is a strong believer in the potential of this city. Although he spends most of his time as a mathematician, he is also a passionate amateur urbanist and a fan of good design. You can often spot him strolling the streets of the downtown, shopping at the Market. Nicholas is the spokesperson for Hamilton Light Rail.

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By joejoe (anonymous) | Posted May 26, 2015 at 12:12:15

Excellent news! Just to emphasize (in case there is any doubt) this is committed funding not a false announcement. This will happen.

Congrats to all the LRT activists who kept the faith!

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By transporter 1 (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2015 at 20:27:03 in reply to Comment 111755

.... but council still needs to vote on it? Any word from them, yet?

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted May 26, 2015 at 13:03:35

Congrats guys you pulled it out. I didn't think it would happen. Now the real fun starts!

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By GabrielN (registered) | Posted May 26, 2015 at 13:29:19

Congratulations and the Premier appreciates your endorsement for the sale of Hydro One.

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By larry's expway lanes! (anonymous) | Posted May 26, 2015 at 13:33:03

Did Larry Di lobby for $$$for new highway lanes this morning? curious

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By pshaw! (anonymous) | Posted May 26, 2015 at 18:57:10

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By Dylan (registered) | Posted May 26, 2015 at 20:16:19 in reply to Comment 111767

Because property values will increase, as they have of late, outpacing all other Canadian municipalities? Agreed.

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By Hee Haw (anonymous) | Posted May 26, 2015 at 20:02:07 in reply to Comment 111767

Donkeys gotta bray.

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By Old Hamiltonian (anonymous) | Posted May 27, 2015 at 00:04:04

I grew up in Hamilton, moved away as a young man in the 70s, but when I heard the news about this today way over in BC I was extremely happy for Hamilton. We grew up living downtown and never had a car, we got everywhere on foot, by bus or by bike. Thinking of a modern fast LRT going up and down old King Street that I knew so well makes me happy. And thinking of the potential to revitalize this great old city that has suffered so much is just fantastic.

Congrats Hamilton and a pat on the back to all the dedicated folks who worked so hard to make this happen. I hope to visit again in the future and go for a ride on one of those new trains.

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted May 27, 2015 at 08:52:58

The last cost estimate I saw was $1B in 2013 dollars. It will be more than that. So I agree, the City will have to raise taxes to pay for it's share above the $1B.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 27, 2015 at 14:16:25 in reply to Comment 111778

As I pointed out in a response to this claim in a comment to another article https://raisethehammer.org/comment/11179... the province very clearly promised to pay 100% of the capital costs, and it has estimated these costs as no more than $1 billion.

And don't forget that one of the main reasons the Province agreed to fund Hamilton's LRT is that it will bring many millions in new taxes annually from new development along the line (one additional new tall condo building alone can bring in 750k). That was a strong reason to end the line at Queenston since the economic development potential is less in the final 3km (as mentioned during the press conference).

In any investment you can't talk only about the (potential) costs ... you have to consider the benefits as well!

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-05-27 14:20:50

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By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted May 28, 2015 at 19:51:01

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By LOL@LOL (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2015 at 21:41:18 in reply to Comment 111814

What a crock of fear mongering baloney. Everything you wrote is wrong. Just give up and stop being such a toxic human being.

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By Dylan (registered) | Posted May 28, 2015 at 20:57:32 in reply to Comment 111814

Is it Hamilton that would necessarily have to pick up the overages? Is not the infrastructure owned by Metrolinx?

The greater potential for cost impact I would think would be dependent on the state in which they find underground services in. The city is on the hook for the replacement of infrastructure that is due for repair//replacement where excavations take place. Granted these are costs the city would incur anyway, hence why we pay for it, but it's a cost accelerated, certainly putting strain on the annual budgets during years of construction.

I may be out to lunch on this. Perhaps someone else knows better.

Regardless, my personal opinion is that it's going to be well worth the investment even if some of this gets passed on to the tax payer. And as of today, it is an IF. We may pay nothing.

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