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Province forms Hamilton Transportation Task Force to recommend how $1B should be spent

Protesters disrupted a planned news conference on December 16, the day Hamilton's LRT project was cancelled by the provincial government.
Protesters disrupted a planned news conference on December 16, the day Hamilton's LRT project was cancelled by the provincial government. Don Mitchell / Global News Radio 900 CHML

Queen’s Park has appointed five people with varying backgrounds to provide recommendations on how $1 billion of transportation funding should be spent in Hamilton.

The Hamilton Transportation Task Force, which meets for the first time next Tuesday, has been tasked with creating a preliminary list of new projects following the demise of the city’s 17-stop LRT due to what the Doug Ford government said were cost overruns.

The project, which was expected to cost $1 billion by the Kathleen Wynne Liberals in 2015, will now see that money spent on “alternative transit and transportation activities.”

READ MORE: Ontario government cancels Hamilton LRT project, mayor calls announcement a ‘betrayal’

“The Hamilton Transportation Task Force will play a vital role in helping our government deliver $1 billion in transportation infrastructure investments in the city of Hamilton,” said Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney.

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“People in Hamilton deserve transportation investments that are realistic and affordable. I will work with the task force and the City of Hamilton to determine which projects best fit Hamilton’s transportation needs.”

READ MORE: Director of Hamilton’s LRT surprised by cancellation amid report bidders ‘dropped out’

The task force counts a former federal transport minister, a member of a large labour union, a civil engineering professor, a former journalist and Hamilton’s city manager among its ranks.

The group includes:

  • Tony Valeri, who grew up in Hamilton, former federal minister of transport for the short-lived Paul Martin Liberal government in 2004
  • Anthony Primerano, director of government relations for LiUNA, a player in the now-defunct LRT that was expected to employ some 5,000 workers on the project
  • Saiedeh Razavi, associate professor at McMaster University’s Department of Civil Engineering and chair of the department’s heavy construction unit
  • Richard Brennan, a former journalist with 43 years of experience who worked in the Toronto Star’s Queen’s Park and Ottawa bureaus covering national affairs
  • Janette Smith, Hamilton’s current city manager, who took the job in March 2019, grew up in Mount Hope and had a 30-year career with Peel Region, serving terms as commissioner of health services and commissioner of public works
From left to right, the Hamilton Transit Task Force includes Tony Valeri, Anthony Primerano, Saiedeh Razavi, Richard Brennan and Janette Smith. The five will now work with the Ministry of Transport to decide how $1 billion in provincial transport funding will be spent in the city.
From left to right, the Hamilton Transit Task Force includes Tony Valeri, Anthony Primerano, Saiedeh Razavi, Richard Brennan and Janette Smith. The five will now work with the Ministry of Transport to decide how $1 billion in provincial transport funding will be spent in the city.

The task force will report to Mulroney before the end of February with a preliminary list of alternative transportation projects that can be delivered “quickly and in a fiscally responsible manner.”

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“I look forward to getting down to work on the possibilities for mass transit and transportation infrastructure more generally in our great city,” said Valeri, the task force’s chair. “I am committed to stewarding a process that will objectively identify the best and most realistic options for Hamilton.”

READ MORE: Councillor frustrated by events leading to Hamilton LRT cancellation

Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation cancelled the province’s $1-billion commitment to Hamilton’s LRT after capital and operating cost estimates for the 14-kilometre rapid transit line from McMaster University to Eastgate Square soared as high as $5.5 billion.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger says Smith, the city manager, is the right person to represent the city’s interests, even if he’s no fan of the process.

READ MORE: Tenant group makes push to bring affordable housing to vacant Hamilton LRT properties

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“I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in the way the province is dealing with this,” Eisenberger said, adding that he hopes “the group of five will come to a conclusion that the province can buy into and say they’ve done right by Hamilton.”

Eisenberger says he has confidence in the five chosen for the panel.

“Each selected individual is a respected member of our community, who has answered a call to serve their city, said the Mayor, “We will support their work in any way we can.”

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