The latest twist in Hamilton’s long-running LRT saga leads straight to the waterfront.
Two months ago, Premier Kathleen Wynne surprised city politicians with a $1-billion promise to build light rail transit along the King Street corridor — with the caveat it must link to the new James Street GO station via an unplanned spur line.
Now, a city report outlining the next steps for the ambitious project suggests the north-south spur line could be extended all the way to the waterfront.
That’s the “ideal vision,” said Mayor Fred Eisenberger, who cautioned Metrolinx has yet to weigh in on the notion or cost of extending the spur beyond the west harbour GO Station.
“I think the spur line makes all sorts of sense, given what we have in mind for the waterfront, and in my mind it’s doable.”
Mayor Fred Eisenberger
“I think it makes all sorts of sense, given what we have in mind for the waterfront, and in my mind it’s doable,” he said after the city released a LRT update report Wednesday.
The city is working furiously to prepare for a hoped-for $500 million development boom on piers 7 and 8, including up to 1,600 housing units and new commercial space.
Originally, the city asked for $811 million to build a 14-kilometre, east-west line running along the “B-line” transit corridor between McMaster University and Eastgate Square.
But the province signed off on a shortened line ending at the Queenston traffic circle to cover the added cost of a link to the GO station. The section east of the traffic circle is identified as an unfunded “phase two” project.
Extending the spur line to add a waterfront stop — almost a kilometre beyond the GO station — would fulfil part of the city’s long-term vision for a north-south “A line” rapid transit route from the harbour to the airport, noted city spokesperson Mike Kirkopoulos.
Downtown Coun. Jason Farr said he’s “open to all ideas” at this stage to improve the project — so long as the city consults “exhaustively” with residents. “Whether they live in the vicinity of the tracks or in Binbrook, we need to hear from these folks.”
North-ender Gabriel Nicholson said he’s a fan of a waterfront LRT stop, but he agreed consultation is a must in a neighbourhood dealing with the fallout of a contentious traffic management plan and braced for redevelopment.
“I understand the rationale. It would fit perfectly with all of the development going on,” said the neighbourhood activist. “But I’m sure people will wonder about the cost. First, it was going to be $811 million, now it’s a billion, now we’re going to the waterfront?”
The city update report says the cost to local taxpayers — above and beyond the $1 billion in provincial capital funding — remains unclear. An interim memorandum of agreement with project lead Metrolinx should iron out many of those dollar details by year’s end.
No planning or public consultation has happened for any part of the spur line yet.
But the report recommends hiring the city’s original LRT expert, Steer Davies Gleave, for about $2 million to complete any extra design and consulting work needed to move the project ahead — ideally by early 2017.
That includes work on the spur line, but also scoping out a site for a critical LRT maintenance and storage facility, which needs its own spur line and neighbourhood study.
The report says the $80-million facility will likely end up on city-owned land at 330 Wentworth St. N., which hosts an under-utilized garage. Council approved the purchase of a neighbouring 3.5-hectare property to enlarge the footprint late last month.
It’s likely Metrolinx will recommend going to tender by 2017 to find a consortium to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the LRT system. Construction is slated to begin in 2019, but the city report stresses the project is on an “aggressive” timeline.
In the meantime, the city will create an LRT office — the number of staffers and cost have yet to be determined — and a dedicated sub-committee of councillors.
Council will also have to chew on the idea of introducing a special interim control bylaw to dissuade LRT-unfriendly development along the Main-King corridor.