Hamilton LRT to Eastgate Square back on the table ahead of key council vote

The sands may be shifting, ahead of another key light rail transit (LRT) meeting at Hamilton City Hall on Wednesday evening.

There’s now confirmation from Ted McMeekin, Hamilton’s Liberal M.P.P., that discussions have been happening for “some time” about a return to the city’s original plan, which was to run LRT from McMaster University to Eastgate Square.

READ MORE: Nine hours of delegations reflect divisions in community over LRT

That 14-kilometre route proposal was replaced with an 11-kilometre LRT line from McMaster University to the Queenston traffic circle when the province announced that it would cover the $1-billion construction cost in 2015, but a James Street North “spur line” that was included in the province’s revision has since been removed from the plan.

That could leave a portion of the $1-billion commitment unallocated, and McMeekin indicates that “we’re open to that,” referring to discussions about running LRT to Eastgate Square. He adds that the key is: “The city’s gotta ask.”

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McMeekin adds that “there’s a burgeoning sense of urgency,” and he reiterates that “Hamilton has no lien on the money.” He also stresses that the $1 billion is “for the project they asked for, it’s not for anything else.”

LISTEN: Ted McMeekin joins the Bill Kelly Show

READ MORE: Hamilton developer warns of dire future if LRT is not approved

It remains to be seen how the Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale MPP’s comments might influence council’s deliberations on Wednesday, when it is again being asked to vote on the LRT project’s updated environmental assessment.

Two previous debates, in the past several weeks, have ended without a decision.

Several “undecided” councillors, including Terry Whitehead, have indicated they’d be more likely to support LRT if the line went as far as Eastgate.

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As many as four city councillors, including Whitehead, have indicated they’d be more likely to support the LRT if it went beyond the Queenston Traffic circle to Eastgate Square.

The city has to approve and submit the plan to the province in order for Hamilton LRT to move forward. Staff have warned that if it doesn’t happen soon, the 2019 deadline to start construction will be put at risk.

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