LRT is coming and Metrolinx has to start buying land — lots of it

Metrolinx will have to buy or expropriate about 250 properties, in whole or in part, to make way for Hamilton's new light-rail transit (LRT) line, but it hopes most of them have willing sellers.

The agency hopes most of them have willing sellers, but if they don't, it will have to expropriate

This rendering shows what LRT could look like downtown. (City of Hamilton)

Metrolinx will have to buy or expropriate about 250 properties to make way for Hamilton's new light-rail transit (LRT) line, but it hopes most of them have willing sellers. 

That's the update from Paul Johnson, the city's LRT project lead, as he presented design plans for the $1-billion line on Monday.

Johnson says the current estimate is that 250 properties will be impacted as Metrolinx lays the line. He hopes many of those are on a "willing buyer-willing seller" basis. But for those that aren't, Metrolinx will have to expropriate.

About 180 of those properties, Johnson said, are "small impacts to the fronts or sides of properties." There are 991 properties along the route in total.

In a planned Toronto LRT, line, about 60 per cent of properties had a willing seller, Johnson said. In Hamilton, he said, property acquisition for LRT will cost more than the $21.9 million estimated in 2012.

"We're still working on costing," he said.

City councillors had dozens of questions at an LRT subcommittee meeting on Monday, where they approved a real estate services protocol the city will sign with Metrolinx.

The province is spending $1 billion to implement the line, and that amount includes property acquisition, Johnson said.

Chad Collins, Ward 5 councillor, asked numerous questions about property acquisition, including if the city is at risk for future lawsuits.

Dorothy Wahl, senior legal counsel for Metrolinx, said the city won't be a party to any potential expropriations, so it shouldn't be under threat of any lawsuits.

Johnson also presented a design study for the line, which runs from McMaster University to the Queenston traffic circle, and down James Street North to the West Harbour GO station, or Guise Street near the waterfront if the budget allows.

That design includes making King Street two way, minus a stretch in the International Village that's reduced to one lane, and building a new bridge over Highway 403.

The report says the system will start at McMaster University and run along Main Street, crossing over the 403 on a new LRT-only bridge. At Dundurn, it will connect to King Street. It runs along King through the core and switches to Main Street East at the Delta.

The LRT rail line will be segregated along the B-line – meaning divided from traffic lanes by curbed barriers – and run down the middle of the street.

As for the A-line, that will run along James Street North and will not be a segregated line.

This month, the city will send people to visit the properties along the LRT route, Johnson said.

The design has LRT running in the same lanes as cars on James Street North. (City of Hamilton)
Under the LRT design plan, King Street at International Village will be one way for cars. (City of Hamilton)
A rendering shows LRT in the central lower city near Tim Hortons Field stadium. (City of Hamilton)
This map shows the future stops of Hamilton's light-rail transit route. (Metrolinx/City of Hamilton)