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)