Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday March 30, 2019
Hamilton LRT back on track after province lifts funding “freeze”
Hamilton’s LRT is back on track after the province vowed to lift a funding freeze on land purchases for the $1-billion transit line.
But the city should look elsewhere for extra cash if light rail transit construction goes overbudget, said Progressive Conservative Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek.
Yurek confirmed the city’s light rail transit project is “good to go forward” following a 20-minute private meeting with Mayor Fred Eisenberger at City Hall on Thursday. “Premier (Doug) Ford has committed the billion dollars to this project and it’s going to be wonderful for the city of Hamilton,” he said.
The commitment ends months of uncertainty for a contentious project announced by the provincial Liberals but stalled by the recently elected PC government, which froze land purchases last summer and suggested city council could use the $1 billion in funding for other priorities.
Speculation about the fate of the project was further fuelled by the province’s vow to cut a reported $13.5-billion budget deficit and the recently announced shrinking of a planned Mississauga LRT route to save money.
Yurek confirmed Thursday that Metrolinx could begin buying land again along the Main-King corridor, and that he is granting three consortiums an extra six months to complete bids to construct and run the 14-kilometre line from McMaster University to Eastgate Mall.
The bids were supposed to be in next month, but the prospective bidders were “just holding back a bit in terms of getting a clear signal that we were moving forward,” said Eisenberger after the meeting. “I think we have that signal today thanks to the minister and the government of the province of Ontario.”
That delay likely means the earliest construction could start on LRT is 2020, given the need to evaluate bids and reach an operating and maintenance agreement with the city. That agreement represents the final vote on LRT needed by a council historically divided over the project. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday August 14, 2018
Hamilton chamber continues to prepare for LRT construction
The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce is launching another series of seminars to prepare businesses for light rail transit (LRT) construction.
The four-part series starts on Thursday evening with a session called “Countdown to Construction.”
Chamber President Keanin Loomis says it is planning on the basis that the $1 billion, provincially-funded project will proceed as scheduled, despite ongoing political questions.
The funding commitment was made by Ontario’s former Liberal government.
There has been much speculation in recent months about whether the 14-kilometre LRT line between McMaster University and Eastgate Square will proceed under Premier Doug Ford’s new PC government.
Loomis, a steadfast supporter of Hamilton LRT, notes that “if everything goes right, as I expect it will, we’re going to be facing construction next year.”
The construction is expected to happen over a period of about five years and Loomis recognizes there will be disruptions for businesses along the corridor, but he remains confident they will be “temporary” and “manageable.”
Metrolinx, based on the project’s latest timelines, is expected to award the contract to build Hamilton’s LRT in 2019. (Source: Global News)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday April 7, 2018
Doug Ford ‘ploy’ has Councillors second-guessing LRT
Some city councillors are second-guessing their support for LRT following Conservative leader Doug Ford’s announcement Hamilton can spend the $1 billion on other infrastructure projects if it rejects light rail.
Lloyd Ferguson, heretofore a staunch LRT supporter, says Ford’s proposal is “very appealing” and will force him to rethink his position if the Conservatives form the government after the June 7 provincial election.
“The main reason why I supported LRT is I couldn’t turn down $1 billion,” said the Ancaster councillor. “Now if we get to keep that $1 billion and use it across the entire city, that’s a game changer.”
Ferguson says he knows Ford’s position is an “election ploy.” “But don’t you capitalize on those opportunities for the people we represent?”
Tom Jackson says he’ll also consider changing his vote if the Conservatives are elected.
The east Mountain councillor says he ultimately backed LRT because he didn’t want to throw the $1 billion away by turning the project down.
But Jackson says Ford’s proposal giving the city the option to spend the money on other transit and infrastructure projects dovetails with his own preference to spend it on the city’s transit fleet and upgrading roads, sidewalks and water mains.
“I wished all along I had the latitude on how to spend the money,” Jackson said. “If (PCs) are fortunate and lucky enough to win a majority government … this aligns with what my preference has been.”
If, however, the Tories fail to win or form a minority government unable to follow through on Ford’s offer, Jackson says he’ll continue to support LRT to hold on to the $1 billion.
Terry Whitehead, a reluctant light rail backer at best, says he’s always maintained he’d reweigh and measure his support for the project if circumstances change about how the $1 billion can be spent. (Continued: Hamilton Spectator)
…It has been a loooong conversation on making LRT and enhanced GO Transit a Billion dollar reality in this city. Here’s a gallery of transit cartoons from the past 8 years or so… Updated October 2018
Not to mention these from 2010 and before:
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)