Ontario electing a Liberal majority should be good news for light rail transit in Hamilton, but time will tell if the party follows through on its promise to fund the system, a local advocate says.
The Liberal budget in May allocated a portion of $15 billion in transit improvements to Hamilton, although it only said “rapid transit” and didn’t specify how much.
Then during the election, Transportation Minister Glen Murray tweeted that if re-elected, his party would fully fund LRT.
Now there’s nothing stopping them, says Ryan McGreal, an advocate for an LRT line running from McMaster University to Eastgate Square.
“It’s good news for LRT in Hamilton, or certainly it ought to be,” McGreal said. “I’d be most disappointed if the Liberals were to turn around now.”
“I’m cautiously very optimistic. If the government does what they’ve been saying they’re going to do, and if they honour the fact that council has made its support of LRT absolutely, unmitigatingly clear, I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t move forward.”
The city has already spent $3 million in Metrolinx grant money to do preliminary design work on an LRT line. In 2011, the Hamilton line was estimated to cost $811 million, although that number grows every year.
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The city included LRT in its Rapid Ready report that it submitted to the province earlier this year. The spring budget included $15 billion for transit projects in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, including “Hamilton rapid transit.”
MPP Ted McMeekin, a Liberal re-elected in his Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale riding on Thursday, said his government would meet with city hall to determine whether that money would go to bus rapid transit or LRT. McMeekin couldn’t be reached for comment on Friday.
The budget did specify a Hurontario-Main LRT line linking Mississauga and Brampton.
Murray turned down a request to meet at city hall because of the election. Now that it’s over, Mayor Bob Bratina says he hopes to see either Murray or whoever is named transportation minister.
“He did promise he’d come and talk to us, so I’m looking forward to that.”
In the past, Bratina has advocated for building ridership using bus rapid transit before building an LRT line, but has been in favour of all-day GO train service. He said Thursday there are still too many questions around LRT, such as “where we would park the trains” and “the infrastructure underneath the street, which could add tens of hundreds of millions of dollars on our tax burden.”
“We’ll see where the LRT question goes,” he said Thursday night. “But it makes life a lot simpler for the municipal government knowing there’s a majority government in place.”