For the past year, images of Hamilton's future light rail transit (LRT) system have shown a line going down James Street North to the west harbour.

But the city's LRT co-ordinator says the system may travel down one of Bay, Hughson or John streets instead.

'We're still in an evaluation phase as a group.' - Paul Johnson LRT co-ordinator

Paul Johnson says James Street North may not be chosen as the route for the north-south spur line, depending on what Metrolinx finds as it plans for it.

Metrolinx and the city are weighing factors such as underground infrastructure, traffic patterns and the potential impact on the community, Johnson said. And it's looking at "that John-through-Bay corridor."

"There are still a lot of conversations still," he said. "It's not just dusting off the whole thing and saying, 'Here you go.' We're looking at the entire route."

Last year, the province pledged $1 billion for LRT in Hamilton. The main line will run along King Street between McMaster University and the Queenston traffic circle. It will also have a north-south spur line going from King Street to at least the West Harbour GO station, or the waterfront if budget permits. The memorandum of agreement, and all plans so far, assume the line is going to the waterfront, Johnson said.

Newer part of project 

The King Street part of the project has been in the works for years. But the north-south line, Johnson said, is "a newer part of the project," so "we're still in an evaluation phase as a group."

Metrolinx will pay for and own the system, which is expected to launch in 2024. On Monday, city councillors on the LRT subcommittee approved a draft memorandum of agreement.

Under the agreement, Metrolinx largely maintains control over the project, including assuming any cost overruns. The city's only authority is over parts of its own infrastructure.

If crews uncover old infrastructure that needs to be replaced, Metrolinx will pay to replace it, Johnson told councillors. That's the case as long as the replacement equipment doesn't increase the capacity or functionality. 

Toronto firm Steer Davies Gleave is designing the system. Metrolinx and the city hope to consult the public in May or June on "key elements" of the project, Johnson said. That will likely include where the north-south line goes.