Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday April 19, 2017
LRT: What’s in it for me?
The $1-billion LRT project will use provincial cash to replace 11 kilometres of infrastructure in Hamilton. If we did it ourselves, the same work would cost local taxpayers $200 million.
This is true, with some important caveats. Metrolinx has agreed to pay to replace all “like-for-like” city infrastructure along the 11-kilometre LRT line. That’s sidewalks, street asphalt, sewers, water pipes, light standards — even the repair or replacement of the Longwood bridge, which will host a spur to a new storage facility.
But the city must share the cost of any upgrades — for example, bigger water or sewer pipes. Such upsizing is necessary given the expectations for higher-density development on the route and could cost as much as $35 million.
The city hopes to get around those shared costs by pitching consolidation, rather than upsizing, of some underground pipes.
Regardless, project fans point out we’re still getting plenty of mostly free new infrastructure — or we’re sharing the cost with all Ontario residents, anyway. We’re certainly getting a sweeter deal than local taxpayers in Kitchener-Waterloo, who had to put up a third of capital cash for their 19-kilometre, almost-finished LRT line.
The infrastructure argument is big in Hamilton because we fall behind on needed repairs and replacement of roads, bridges and buildings each year by $195 million. Meanwhile, the city has added about $13 to the average homeowner’s tax bill each year since 2011 specifically to help close that spending gap.
Skeptics among councillors argue multi-year LRT construction will dig up plenty of infrastructure that doesn’t actually need to be replaced at all. The city admits many underground pipes along the route, for example, have been recently relined or replaced.
They also point out correctly very little of the LRT-affected infrastructure is included on the 10-year capital priority list. (This is likely good news for the city, however, because Metrolinx has confirmed it won’t pay full replacement costs for any project the city has already budgeted for.) (Source: Hamilton Spectator)