Metrolinx has identified a $1 billion light-rail transit line in Hamilton as one of its high-priority projects.
On Thursday, Metrolinx president and CEO Bruce McCuaig outlined the plans for the second wave of the so-called Big Move — the regional transportation plan for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area.
The list, which boasts $34 billion in transportation improvements, includes a 14-km Hamilton LRT line that would run west along King Street and east along Main Street, from McMaster University to Eastgate Mall.
Speaking at a news conference at the Toronto Board of Trade on Thursday, McCuaig said the project would “change the way people in Hamilton travel.”
Metrolinx approved an environmental assessment for the line in December 2011. The city is currently working on a more specific design for the project, but council hasn't committed to building it.
“All of the projects we have listed are proposed projects,” Anne Marie Aikins, a spokesperson for Metrolinx, told CBC Hamilton.
She said the agency would work extensively with the affected municipalities to design new transit developments.
“We've already begun those discussions with the City of Hamilton,” Aikins noted. “We're very much open at this point.”
Thursday's announcement didn't include specifics about how the transit package will be funded, but Metrolinx is set to unveil its funding strategy in June 2013.
“It's now time for the big conversation about the best ways to pay for this $34-billion investment," McCuaig said, adding that different levels of government must be involved in discussions about how to fund transit.
What transit projects council pursues will depend on how much money the province is willing to put on the table, said Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla, who said the LRT option would be best for Hamilton.
The province had previously offered to cover construction, he said, leaving the city responsible for operating costs. It's an arrangement Merulla wants the provincial government to revisit.
“One billion dollars is quite steep, especially when we're dealing with elements of downloading.”
“We have to ask, 'Is it affordable? How do we make it affordable?'
“There are a number of variables that we need to examine.”