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Ontario funding new transit in Hamilton:
LRT, new GO station, more GO service

Hamilton LRT.jpg

This rendering of Hamilton’s proposed light rail transit line shows two cars meeting on King Street East at Wellington Street, on the eastern edge of downtown Hamilton. Under the plan the province announced today, eastbound cars would not extend to Eastgate as the image indicates. Image: Steer Davies Gleave.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, her minister of transportation Steven Del Duca and her minister of municipal affairs and housing Ted McMeekin dropped by McMaster University’s Convocation Hall at breakfast this morning, Tuesday, May 26 with big news for Hamilton commuters. They told an enthusiastic audience that the Ontario government would provide as much as $1 billion to build a new light rail transit line in Hamilton.

During the event, the premier also announced that GO Transit would extend train service between the new West Harbour GO Station and a future station near Centennial Parkway North in east-end Hamilton.

Metrolinx president and chief executive officer Bruce McCuaig joined the premier and ministers at “Mac”, which would be the western terminal for the LRT line. LRT vehicles will operate entirely on tracks that are separate from regular traffic.

“Our investment in the Hamilton LRT will help support the exciting revitalization underway in Hamilton,” Wynne said. The province is funding 100 per cent of the capital costs of building the new LRT.

However, the line that province has announced is shorter than what the City of Hamilton had originally planned. It extends from McMaster through downtown Hamilton to Queenston Circle — the complicated intersection where Main Street East, Queenston Road and Strathearne Avenue join. However, a second phase would extend three the line more stations to Eastgate Square, which is where the city originally proposed to end the line. (It’s not clear who would fund this extension.)

The premier and ministers also said that the new line would connect directly to the new West Harbour GO Station, which is new to the plan. They also intend to fund a “future, high-order pedestrian connection to the Hamilton GO Centre”, but didn’t provide many details. The province will start the procurement process for building the LRT in 2017, with construction starting in 2019.

“This substantial infrastructure investment in Hamilton is critical to the growth and prosperity of the entire [Greater Toronto and Hamilton area],” McCuaig said. “…Improved links to the GO rail network and new LRT… will add even more travel choice and give people a faster, more convenient way to connect to the things that matter to them.”

According to Ryan McGreal, editor of the local blog, Raise the Hammer, Minister McMeekin

“came on stage chanelling Mr. Rogers. ‘It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood.’ Calling the announcement ‘a truly historic moment for our community,’ McMeekin praised Premier Wynne and Minister Del Duca, who “listened to the people of Hamilton, carefully.

“He also gave credit to the many LRT supporters in Hamilton… who have advocated for years for LRT in Hamilton, and ‘each of the folks who sent me the 20,000 tweets over the past four years.’”

(McMeekin represents Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale in the legistature — his riding includes McMaster.)

In the Hamilton Spectator, reporter Matthew van Dongen writes that, “City council will eventually have to sign off on a master agreement with Metrolinx that will spell out everything from who operates the system to what costs will be covered by the city to how a long construction period will be phased.”

But, first, before anyone starts building the LRT, the government will provide GO trains to east-end Hamilton. The Premier said she expects construction to start in 2017, with a goal to finishing the project in 2019. Since GO already has a “Centennial GO Station” in Markham, it has tentatively dubbed the new stop on Centennial Parkway “Confederation GO Station”. Construction is currently underway to build the new West Harbour GO Station, opening in time for the 2015 Pan Am / Parapan Am Games.

Also, as Minister Del Duca explained, “GO is increasing the weekly train trips to more than 600 from 578 on the Lakeshore West line which runs from Union Station to Hamilton.” A news release inviting media to the Hamilton event states that, “over the next 10 years, weekly trips across the GO rail network will grow from about 1,500 trips to nearly 6,000.”

In the 2015 budget, the government committed to investing in rapid transit in Hamilton as part of its Moving Ontario Forward plan. Through this plan, the Government of Ontario says, it’s “investing $31.5 billion over 10 years in public transit, transportation and other priority infrastructure projects across the province”. It also says that “the Hamilton LRT project aligns with its priority of investing in rapid transit projects that will connect to GO Transit and other transit systems across the [region]”.

The Premier and her ministers have been busy lately, attending a number of transit-related media opportunities to support this plan, including,

The government says that it expects the plan “to support more than 20,000 jobs per year, on average, in construction and related industries over the next 10 years.”

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