Thursday October 20, 2016

Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday October 27, 2016

Voting to kill LRT would be difficult, Hamilton councillors told

Council still has the power to derail LRT even with $70 million already spent on the project.

But voting to kill the 100-per-cent provincially funded, $1-billion project would be procedurally difficult and fraught with legal risk, councillors were told during a 12-hour marathon meeting Tuesday.

The prospect of a potential vote for or against LRT by a divided council attracted 150-plus residents to watch as well as two dozen who spoke publicly for and against the project. Enthusiasm for such a vote any time soon fizzled after lawyer George Rust-D’Eye suggested a move to delay or stop LRT would require two-thirds council support because of prior votes to move the project forward.

Two councillors — LRT supporter Sam Merulla and vocal critic Terry Whitehead — did put forward a motion late in the meeting suggesting Metrolinx look at improving A-line transit up the Mountain alongside the funded LRT project. Metrolinx project head Andrew Hope said it was too early to say if the agency would look at such a request.

“We would need to have further discussions with the city to understand what the actual intent is here,” he said.
Other councillors like Judi Partridge and Brenda Johnson, however, asked if council had any LRT “off-ramps” remaining, including major route changes or even a rethink to pursue bus rapid transit.

City manager Chris Murray said council still has an opportunity to vote on “major milestones” including the environmental assessment submission next spring, an operating and maintenance agreement and a “master agreement” with Metrolinx.

He emphasized council has already committed “in good faith” to moving LRT ahead with prior votes, including an Aug. 14, 2015 decision to create an LRT implementation office to work on the updated project that calls for a line from McMaster University to the Queenston traffic circle. The city also signed a binding real estate protocol this fall.

But he added if council encounters a problem with the project or operating agreement that is “so significant that … we simply could not solve it, then I think that is where council would have to decide whether to keep going or not.”

Rust-D’Eye warned in his report that debate should not happen “without thorough consideration and legal advice with respect to the implications.”

City LRT point person Paul Johnson also noted Metrolinx has “spent or committed” between $60 million and $70 million on LRT planning so far, including 20 city staff and six Metrolinx officials working out of a local office as well as several consultants studying traffic, real estate and technical route issues.

He couldn’t tell frustrated councillors, however, how many buses might be available to use elsewhere in the city after LRT starts up on the busy B-line along Main and King streets because the options are still under study.(Source: Hamilton Spectator)

Ontario, Metrolinx, HSR, Hamilton, LRT, transit, halloween, costume, Fred Eisenberger, debate