Report: Hamilton LRT Back on Track?

The 14-kilometer (8.7-mile) line would connect the Eastgate Square shopping mall and downtown Hamilton with McMaster University (see map below).

City councilmembers on Sept. 8 voted 11-3 to sign the MOU; vote ratification is expected Sept. 15. The new MOU “will be ‘binding and enforceable,’ a staff report says, and essentially lock Hamilton into accepting LRT,” according to CBC News, which noted that information on “issues such as operating costs, which Hamilton will have to cover, and fare box revenue, which Hamilton will keep” is still to come for the C$3.4 billion project.

Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney in December 2019 announced the cancellation of Hamilton’s DBFOM (design, build, finance, operate, maintain) light rail project, claiming that the previous Liberal government’s C$1 billion budget figure low-balled the project’s cost.

In January 2020, the Province created the Hamilton Transportation Task Force to “help shape the future of high priority transit in Hamilton by providing new proposals,” according to the Ministry of Transportation. “Within two months, the Task Force submitted its report providing recommendations on future transportation infrastructure for the city of Hamilton. The Task force noted a higher-order transportation option, such as an LRT, to be their preferred option.” Metrolinx in November 2020 completed “a technical review of the Task Force’s recommendations to determine what options were possible, which has been received and reviewed by the Ministry of Transportation. The technical review indicates a C$1 billion LRT system funded solely with provincial capital would not be of sufficient length to be a viable project to benefit the people of Hamilton. The report suggests a longer LRT, for example running from McMaster and extending beyond Downtown Hamilton to Gage or further, could be a viable option pending federal funding. A feasible LRT project is therefore only possible if the federal government partners with the Province.”

On Feb. 9, 2021, the government of Ontario announced its continued commitment to investing C$1 billion in a LRT project in Hamilton. And on May 13, 2021, the governments of Ontario and Canada each committed C$1.7 billion to move the project forward.

Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney

“From our original $1 billion capital commitment for the project to our strong calls over the past two years for a federal funding commitment, we have remained focused on delivering rapid transit for the people of Hamilton,” Ontario Transportation Minister Mulroney said in May. “Ontario has increased our investment to C$1.7 billion to ensure that we can get Hamiltonians a 14-kilometer line that connects Eastgate Square through to McMaster University, and to ensure that we can get shovels in the ground as soon as possible for this critical transit project. The LRT will improve connectivity and create thousands of sustainable jobs for the future.”

“We are very excited the Hamilton LRT project is back and the people of Hamilton will get the project they need, all the way from McMaster to Eastgate,” Metrolinx President and CEO Phil Verster said in May. “The LRT will bring safe, accessible travel to help get Hamilton moving, both locally, and as part of a great regional transit network that connects right into GO Transit.”

Line construction could start in early to mid 2022, CBC News said, quoting Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger.

Note: Hamilton Street Railway is the historic name of the city’s public transportation agency, even though streetcar service ended more than a half-century ago, replaced with buses.

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