LRT means uncertain future for Hamilton's 5-year-old, $10M MacNab terminal

Five years ago, the city cut the ribbon on a new MacNab transit terminal worth $9.5 million. With LRT, the upgrades may not survive.

The city spent $9.5 million to build the MacNab transit terminal

The city spent nearly $10 million on the new MacNab terminal, which opened five years ago. With LRT, the city is looking at the future of many of the amenities it paid to install. (John Rieti/CBC)

Five years ago, the city opened a new MacNab bus terminal that cost nearly $10 million to build. Now Hamilton's planned light rail transit line means some or all of those upgrades risk being undone again. 

David Dixon, head of HSR, says the MacNab terminal, currently downtown's transit hub, will have a different function once Metrolinx builds a $1 billion LRT system through the lower city.

That means every aspect of the terminal is up in the air – including the future of the building, which officially opened in 2011. 

The MacNab location will still be used as a transit stop in the lower city, Dixon said. But it's unlikely to be the hub it is now. Transit planners also don't know how many buses will come through, or how it will interact with the new trains.

"We are looking at adjustments to that terminal," Dixon said. 

This concerns Chad Collins, city councillor for Ward 5 in the Red Hill area. He's an increasingly vocal opponent of LRT.

The terminal was a big-ticket item in 2011, when the city spent $9.5 million to build the terminal building, including heated platforms, new bus shelters, public washrooms and space for bicycles. It also rerouted buses away from Gore Park, HSR's previous downtown hub. A year later, the city spent $565,000 to install digital display screens with real-time information.

That's a lot of money to spend only to undo it five years later, Collins said. That's "a capital structure we built just a few years ago."

"To hear that substantial changes will be made… is concerning."

Sam Merulla, councillor for Ward 4 in the east end and a supporter of LRT, doesn't see the upgrades as wasted money. 

"We're a city that's in flux and things do happen," he said. "As things progress, you sometimes have a plan. It changes and you have to act accordingly."

The city and Metrolinx hope to roll out more details on the LRT system this year. Construction is due to start in 2019, with LRT opening in 2024. The city hopes to have a traffic impact plan by fall.

On Wednesday, city councillors will look at a design study for LRT. That plan includes a segregated track running down Main from McMaster University to Highway 403, then crossing a new bridge to switch to King Street at Dundurn. It will run down King Street, with the street becoming one lane in the International Village. At the delta, it will switch to Main Street and end at the Queenston traffic circle.

As for the James North line, the tracks will share the lanes with car traffic.

This map shows the future stops of Hamilton's light-rail transit route. (Metrolinx/City of Hamilton)