By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday, July 26, 2014
Province not ready to commit to $811-million Hamilton LRT
The province isn’t ready to commit to an $811 million LRT line in Hamilton and there’s no timeline for a decision.
Ontario’s new Transportation Minister, Steven Del Duca, emerged from a controversial private meeting at the city Friday to repeat the Liberal government’s commitment to paying 100 per cent of capital costs for a new “rapid transit” project in Hamilton.
But he couldn’t say what that project will be, when the city will get an answer or define what is covered by “capital construction costs.”
“It may very well be LRT,” he said in response to persistent questioning after the meeting with Mayor Bob Bratina, city manager Chris Murray and four other councillors.
But he said he wasn’t in a position to “make an announcement” Friday, although he added he was clear the city’s official request is for a light rail line, despite recent public musings of some councillors on the idea of a bus rapid transit alternative.
Del Duca also acknowledged the city needs an answer on what will be covered by provincial capital funding, for example expropriation and other land costs. He said he would consult with provincial officials and Metrolinx and get back to the city on the “interesting” question.
Councillors had varying reactions to the meeting.
Mayoral aspirant Brian McHattie said he was “blown out of the water” by the “positive” meeting, adding he was relieved the minister was not confused by mixed messages coming from individual local politicians.
Councillor Brad Clark, also a mayoral candidate, said he didn’t hear “very much new information” from the minister, but appreciated the chance for a direct conversation.
Clark said it was made clear Hamilton has more work to do, to make its case for a rapid transit project, but added the specifics will come from Metrolinx and senior provincial staff in the coming weeks or months.
McHattie, by contrast, said the minister praised the work already competed by Hamilton and seemed to think “we’ve done enough” to take the next step. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)
By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Monday, March 10, 2014
Mayor’s LRT blog spurs confusion as he tries to reiterate his support
Attention light-rail fans: Mayor Bob Bratina says he’s always been keen on LRT.
The mayor infuriated some LRT advocates Tuesday with a new blog post that outlined his 2010 election campaign pitch for a Mountain-climbing LRT route along a converted rail line that is now a popular escarpment walking and cycling trail.
He also said in a Wednesday interview he has “no interest” in “resurrecting” his old rail-trail proposal as an alternative to the council-approved line running 14 kilometres between McMaster University and Eastgate Square.
But LRT boosters criticized the blog online for further muddying the waters around Hamilton’s support for light rail.
Raise the Hammer’s Ryan McGreal said Bratina’s musings were “calculated to sow confusion and doubt” about rapid transit planning in the city, which has been dogged in recent years by conflicting political messages.
While Bratina starts the blog by saying he “fully” supports council’s position on transit, he goes on to note perceived problems and “doubt” linked to the B Line — listing traffic, unhappy King Street businesses and property acquisition issues.
McGreal said it’s “particularly frustrating” to see the mayor suggest in a public forum his old rail trail plan has more development potential than the B Line, after Metrolinx and the city spent years on studies identifying the lower city line as the best bet for ridership and economic growth.
“It’s noise and confusion … it’s actually unhelpful,” said McGreal, who replies to the blog in a rebuttal here.
Bratina argued the only controversy over LRT is where the required $800-million will come from. The minority Liberal government is considering new tolls, development charges and fuel surtaxes. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)
Bratina brings amalgamation debate back
Mayor Bob Bratina says he’s resurrecting a three-year-old election vow to review Hamilton’s contentious 2001 merger to “heal the rifts that divide us” — but he won’t rule out the prospect of deamalgamation.
Bratina, who hasn’t said if he’ll run for office again this fall, startled the audience at his state of the city address Wednesday by arguing it is “reasonable and perhaps critical” to look back at the 13-year-old amalgamation after years of silence on the issue.
He followed up with an afternoon promise to independently ask the province to review a new Western University study on amalgamation.
Bratina repeatedly refused to rule out deamalgamation but added it would be unlikely anytime soon.
“There may also be some way of relieving the costs that were brought on the amalgamation process by further, in-depth review by the province,” he suggested.
The announcement, made at a hastily arranged study presentation at the Sheraton, infuriated several councillors who called the move electioneering.
“He’s not registered to run yet (as a candidate) but he’s using his office to campaign,” said Councillor Sam Merulla.
He noted that the mayor’s office paid for equipment for the state of the city address as well as the cost of a Sheraton room for the study presentation. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)