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Ontario cancels Hamilton LRT project


The Government of Ontario announced Monday, December 16 that it is not proceeding with the Hamilton light rail transit project.

The government says it had consulted with a third-party agency to estimate the project costs, which it now claims would rise to about $5 billion. The third-party estimate includes construction and capital costs of about $3 billion, although the government would not break down the specifics of that estimate. The government also claims that the City of Hamilton would be required to supply as much as $1 billion in operating costs over the life of the 30-year private-operation contract.

According to reporters Samantha Craggs and Dan Taekema of CBC Hamilton, the government “killed” the LRT… “amid a chaotic afternoon that included a hastily cancelled news conference, city councillors facing down police and Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney leaving the city with a police escort.

The CBC report continues, “Mulroney left without actually making her announcement. Her press conference was called off at the last minute when protesters, anticipating that the LRT would be cancelled, filed into the room at the downtown Sheraton hotel.

“It was Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger, who had only just been briefed by the province, who told the room.

“‘In my view that’s a betrayal of the city of Hamilton,’ he said to reporters. ‘That is not working in good faith with a partner.’

“‘Their timing on this is just outrageous,’” said Eisenberger. ‘If they were going to do this, they could have picked a better way.’

“Provincial staffers moved Mulroney to a government building across the street. Two city councillors followed, refusing to leave the lobby until they were allowed to hear the technical briefing.

“The property manager called the police, but even as officers arrived, Couns. Maureen Wilson and John-Paul Danko — of Ward 1 and 8, respectively — stayed.

“‘My constituents demand answers and my job is to give them that information,’ Danko said. ‘For the minister to come to Hamilton and not be prepared to face the public or face council, that’s just ridiculous.’

“Mulroney left in a police-escorted car.”

HamOnt LRT at ScottPark.jpg

^ Rendering of proposed Hamilton LRT at the Scott Park Station — near Tim Hortons Field. Image, Metrolinx, City of Hamilton.

A news article in the Hamilton Spectator explains, “In a phone call Monday, Mulroney said she understood she was delivering ‘difficult news,’ but emphasized the province cannot forge ahead with a project it now believes will cost $5.5 billion over 30 years.

“The minister also reiterated the province’s $1-billion commitment to transportation in the city remains — but details are so far scarce on what the money could be spent on and who makes the decision.

“Mulroney acknowledged the ‘anger and frustration’ of residents who only nine months ago heard former Tory transportation minister Jeff Yurek announce the $1-billion LRT was ‘good to go forward’ after a funding freeze described as a delay to study project viability.

The City of Hamilton has proposed an east-west LRT through the city between Eastgate Square [mall] and McMaster University as early as 2007, mostly along Queenston Road and Main and King Streets East and West. It completed an environmental assessment report of the project in 2011.

In May 2015, the former Liberal provincial promised to fund construction of the project, when then Premier Kathleen announced that Ontario would provide $1 billion toward the LRT, but with a shorter route than the City was planning. Premier Wynne also announced a north-south branch line along James Street North between Hamilton Harbour and the Hamilton GO Centre.


In February 2017, the province revised its plans to replace the north-south rail spur with a bus rapid transit project between the waterfront and John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport. That month, two provincial agencies, Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario (IO), issued a request for qualifications to “interested parties to design, build, finance, operate and maintain LRT.”

A few months later, in April 2017, Ontario agreed to build the three easternmost stations of the line, restoring the project to the City’s original proposal. Ontario’s then minister of the environment approved the environmental assessment in August that year.

IO and Metrolinx issued a request for proposals to three consortia to build and operate the project in April 2018. They expected to announce a successful proponent early next year.

Since June 2018, Metrolinx has spent $160 million to buy land and buildings that it intended to demolish to accommodate LRT construction. It has also forced a number of low-income tenants to leave their homes and find other residences. Metrolinx has also acquired land for a maintenance and storage facility for the LRT line.

The government has said that it intends to still provide $1 billion to upgrade Hamilton transit, but it hasn’t yet clarified what that funding package would entail.

HamOnt LRT at GorePark.jpg

^ Rendering of proposed Hamilton LRT at Gore Park in downtown Hamilton. Image, Metrolinx, City of Hamilton.

Also unclear are the status of various related infrastructure projects in Hamilton that Metrolinx would have funded, including:

  • 14 kilometres of new sewers;
  • 16 kilometres of water mains;
  • 28 kilometres of sidewalks — upgraded to meet Accessibility for Disabled Ontarians Act standards;
  • a new Longwood Road bridge across Highway 403. (The new, widened bridge will have sidewalks on both sides and a bidirectional, fully protected cycle track.)
  • a new bridge deck on Queenston Road across the Red Hill Valley Parkway.
  • a project to rebuild and extend Frid Street between Longwood Road and Chatham Street, including all required sewers, water mains, sidewalks, bike lanes and street lighting.

HamOntLRT at McMaster.jpg

^ Rendering of proposed Hamilton LRT at McMaster University. Image, Metrolinx, City of Hamilton.

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