Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday November 29, 2017
Reluctant province willing to let City of Hamilton run LRT
The province’s transit agency is leaving the door open for Hamilton to run a planned new LRT line even as it urges council to abandon the idea.
Months ago city council got on board with a local union campaign to ask the province to reconsider plans to contract out operations and maintenance of a $1-billion, 14-kilometre LRT line.
The late request temporarily derailed plans by provincial transit agency Metrolinx to put out a tender call for consortiums to design, build, finance, run and maintain the project. It also left LRT supporters worried a contract award would be delayed beyond the Ontario election in June.
But the city now has its answer: a reluctant yes — with plenty of warnings and a January decision deadline.
In a Nov. 24 letter, Metrolinx president Phil Verster appeals to council to let the private tender process go ahead.
“I strongly recommend that the project continue to be delivered using the (privately run) model,” he writes. “However, if the City decides it is not willing to proceed with this model, Metrolinx is prepared to remove operations from the current procurement and work with the City.”
Verster warned the HSR would be forced to shoulder a list of onerous responsibilities and legal obligations as part of a local operations agreement. He also ruled out the idea of the city taking over responsibility for LRT maintenance.
A companion report from city staff also identifies “immediate and ongoing costs” to the taxpayer if council commits to a locally run system — including $750,000 a year for the next seven years for a new five-person team dedicated to LRT operation matters.
Those costs would not be covered by the $1-billion in provincial funding, the report says.
Switching gears on LRT operations would also delay procurement by up to five months because Metrolinx would scrap a completed pre-qualification process for bidders and start again.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger said Monday he was relieved to get an answer, but added council “will have to grapple” with the cost implications of the looming decision. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)