Hamilton LRT is officially back on the rails.
The federal and provincial governments, during a virtual media conference on Thursday, confirmed a combined investment of $3.4 billion in a 14-kilometre light rail transit line (LRT) across the lower city, from McMaster University to Eastgate Square.
There will be 17 stops along the line, and funding of $1.7 billion from each of the upper levels of government will pay for planning, design and construction costs.
Hamilton city council will now be asked to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU), which would allow the project to go forward.
Catharine McKenna, Canada’s minister of infrastructure and communities, and Caroline Mulroney, Ontario’s minister of transportation, say the funding is for LRT and LRT only.
“This funding is for an LRT,” stressed Mulroney, “which is a shovel-ready project.”
McKenna added that “the prime minister has been clear about the importance of restarting our economy and creating good jobs.”
“This is for shovel-ready projects, this is the only shovel-ready project (in Hamilton), the deal was specifically about Hamilton LRT.”
“I really think this is a huge opportunity,” said McKenna. “So seize the day folks.”
Some city councillors remain reluctant to endorse the project because of lingering questions about their responsibility for operating and maintenance costs.
Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger said he’s optimistic that council will sign off on an agreement since “this is essentially the project that we started with in 2015.”
“I’m going to impress upon our local council and councillors that we can’t be dragging our feet on this,” said Eisenberger. “I can’t think of a better time to have this come together than coming out of a pandemic and needing to spur on our economy.”
Ward 5 Coun. Chad Collins said he doesn’t “share the mayor’s enthusiasm.”
“I don’t believe that his assessment of where the community is at is an accurate one,” he said.
Collins argued that residents are telling him, “Can you please get your priorities straight? We’re in the
middle of a pandemic, and one of the last things we should be talking about is a continued push for LRT.”
McKenna said “community benefit” agreements would be built into the construction to address Hamilton’s affordable housing crisis and to “maximize the potential for local businesses and for local employment.”