LRT: How does city prevent it from becoming another stadium debacle?

Hamilton's stadium was a year late. LRT will involve tearing up King Street from McMaster University to the east end. How does the city make sure history won't repeat itself?
Councillors say they don't want LRT to become another stadium situation where the project takes a year longer than anticipated. (Tucker Wilson/CBC)

It's a totally different project with a different set of players, but the question loomed heavy over an LRT subcommittee meeting on Monday — how does the city make sure this project doesn't end up like the stadium?

Hamilton's Tim Hortons Field stadium was a year overdue, and two years later, crews are still putting the finishing touches on it.

I want very serious consequences if this project comes in late.- Coun. Lloyd Ferguson

If Hamilton isn't careful, says Coun. Lloyd Ferguson, it could go through the same thing again, this time with a project that tears up one of Hamilton's main streets.

Ferguson wants clear language in the city's memorandum of agreement with Metrolinx — which will have most of the control over the project — that there will be penalties if the project is late.

Many construction contracts have daily penalties in them if the work isn't done on time, Ferguson said. Others have bonuses for companies that finish ahead of schedule. That, Ferguson argues, is what was missing from the stadium contract. And that's what needs to be in the LRT contract, he says, and he wants it in writing now.

"I want very serious consequences if this project comes in late," said Ferguson, who is an Ancaster councillor and construction industry veteran.

There are similarities between the projects. With the $140-million stadium, Infrastructure Ontario led the construction. The city had little say in the process, and didn't even take ownership of the stadium until it was mostly complete.

In the case of the $1-billion LRT project, Metrolinx will oversee nearly everything, shows the memorandum of agreement, which councillors approved on Monday.

Learned from the stadium

The city will only have a say over infrastructure that belongs solely to the city. Otherwise, Metrolinx will build and own the system — and even the right of way on which it runs.

Ferguson also wants the memorandum to spell out that if it goes over budget, Metrolinx will pay. Committee members voted with him to add that to the memorandum. They also want to add that if the project goes over or under budget, Metrolinx pays, not the city.

Matthew Green, Ward 3 councillor, doesn't want a repeat of the stadium situation either.

"I want to make sure the public knows we've done our homework and we've learned from this project," he said.

There are still many key questions about LRT that no one knows yet.

For example, Paul Johnson, the city's LRT co-ordinator, said it's still unknown whether construction will be phased or happen all at once. That depends on which construction company Metrolinx chooses to build it.

The LRT line will run along King Street from McMaster University to the Queenston traffic circle, and south from King Street to the West Harbour GO station, or budget permitting, the waterfront.

Construction will start by 2019, and the LRT line will be operational by 2024.


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