Hamilton Chamber of Commerce says LRT key to economic recovery in post-COVID-19 blueprint

Artist rendering of Hamilton's LRT project. City of Hamilton

An economic recovery blueprint from Hamilton’s Chamber of Commerce says moving forward on the LRT project is one of several ways that the city can bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The recommendations in the report range from short term to long term, with LRT highlighted as a ‘shovel-ready’ project that would “deliver the most substantial long-term economic benefits”.

The province halted the project due to projected cost overruns in December 2019. However, a provincial transportation task force announced in April that the best way to spend Hamilton’s $1-billion for transit would be either LRT or bus-rapid transit.

Bianca Caramento, manager of policy and government relations with Hamilton’s Chamber of Commerce, said the federal government could provide the necessary funding to cover extra costs.

“Minister McKenna, the infrastructure minister federally, has already made very clear that should the provincial government approach the feds for funding — for the Hamilton LRT in particular — she is all ears,” said Caramento during an interview on Global News Radio 900 CHML’s The Scott Thompson Show.

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“She’s just simply waiting for them to reach out and make that known.”

Read more: Province reveals task force recommendations for Hamilton’s $1B transportation handout

After the province’s task force announced its findings in April, the Ministry of Transportation released a statement from Minister Caroline Mulroney, who said Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario would be “conducting a technical review of the project options contained in the report”.

Caramento said they’re expecting to hear the results of that technical review in September, although Global News did not hear back from the Ministry of Transportation to independently verify that date.

“We’re hoping to see this project get picked back up again,” said Caramento. “There’s very few projects out there — and I would venture to say across Canada — where you have all the plans already made. All the environmental assessments already completed. All the properties almost entirely purchased already.

“So this is really just a shovel-ready project, which is exactly the sort of infrastructure spending the federal government would likely be looking to do post-recovery.”

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There could also be financial support from the private sector as well, according to Caramento, who said there are a number of developers that have already invested in properties along the B-line route and have a “vested interest” in ensuring LRT gets back on track.

“So I would imagine that should this project be back on the table, we’ll be able to hear exactly who would be willing to put dollars and cents toward the project, and just how much that contribution might be.”

Read more: Hamilton politicians vote to hear revised Commonwealth Games pitch

The chamber is also throwing its hat behind the 2026 Commonwealth Games bid — provided it has financial support from the provincial and federal governments.

Other asks from governments in the chamber’s proverbial wishlist include:
  • Two-way all-day train service from Hamilton to Toronto’s Union station.
  • Aid for women who were hit hard by job losses in the service-sector with affordable child-care, and job training.
  • Fast track planned expansion of the Airport Employment Growth District (AEGD) business par expansion adjacent to the Hamilton airport
  • Funding to unlock private capital to build a Southwestern Ontario Life sciences Megahub
Click to play video: 'Hamilton LRT project derailed as province claws back funding'
Hamilton LRT project derailed as province claws back funding

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