Procurement process for LRT to start later this year, construction in 2024
LRT project director says the city will work to refine design to include Complete Street planning
Major construction work on the Hamilton light-rail transit (LRT) will begin in just under two years, the city's LRT project director announced Monday, as councillors were given an update on the project and the impact it's expected to have on the community.
Director of the LRT with the city, Abdul Waheed Shaikh, provided the summary during an LRT sub-committee meeting, saying work on the project is underway by the city, and the plan is to go for tender next year.
"In terms of [the] overall big Metrolinx project, the plan is to start the procurement process sometime end of this year," Shaikh said.
"In terms of major construction, they are planning to do it in 2024. So, before 2024 there will be some early works by the City of Hamilton, and there will be some early works by other third party utilities."
The procurement process is expected to last one year, Shaikh said.
City council first considered an LRT in 2007. In 2015 the then-Liberal provincial government announced $1 billion to build the system. But in late 2019, the province — by then under Progressive Conservative leadership — cancelled the LRT, saying it would cost Hamilton taxpayers too much to operate. The project got back on track in May last year with the province and the federal government each committing $1.7 billion. Both said the money can only be used for LRT.
Shaikh says the city will work with Metrolinx to continue to refine the design for Complete Street and Vision Zero planning, which aims to put road safety and vulnerable road and transportation users front and centre.
"To take advantage of the major construction, the city will also investigate to improve city infrastructure in addition to the basic requirements triggered by the LRT project," he added.
Shaikh says the city is also working with Metrolinx on utility infrastructure which needs to be relocated as part of the LRT project.
How Main Street conversion fits in
City council has been requesting that the design for the LRT, which was completed in 2019, be redesigned, and Shaikh says his office "will be working diligently with Metrolinx" to look after all the city's interests.
"These big projects … construction [normally] lasts for 10 years and it is practically changing the entire city," Shaikh said.
"So, we will be looking at if we can take benefit of LRT project if city requires to add some additional infrastructure … We need to take advantage of this project, for example if we need to put some pipelines crossing the guideway [where the LRT vehicles travel] and boulevard so that we don't have to rip the boulevard again.
"So, we will be working with various divisions across the city to see if there are additional things required in addition to the basic LRT project," he added.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger says road work and the LRT design need to be coordinated and done in tandem, while Ward 1 Councillor Maureen Wilson raised the topic of the conversion of Main Street and how it would fit into the LRT project.
In May this year city council approved a motion that will convert Main Street — the location of several recent pedestrian injuries and at least one death — to two-way traffic.
Shaikh said the aim is to complete the Main Street conversion before major construction, or even during construction of LRT project.
Meanwhile, Jason Thorne, the city's general manager of planning and economic development, says the city will have a planner/urban designer dedicated to the LRT project.
"Through that position we will be making sure that … any development on the corridor, that the design of that development is accommodating and really maximizing the potential benefit of the LRT corridor," Thorne said.
Ward 5 Councillor Russ Powers says the LRT is already "doing what it was meant to do, which is to stimulate growth and intensification along the route and we're already seeing that with new buildings taking place."
For his part, Eisenberger said "it's very exciting to see that the vision of LRT ... is actually turning into a reality as we go forward."
"It's very, very exciting," the mayor said.
At Monday's meeting, councillors approved a motion that staff be directed to report back to the LRT sub-committee meeting on Sept. 26 on how the project is being managed on behalf of the city and how changes recommended since 2019 can be incorporated into the design.
With file from Saira Peesker, Samantha Craggs and Bobby Hristova
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