Stop creating uncertainty and move on with LRT, says Andrea Horwath

Andrea Horwath says the city should stop creating uncertainty and not lose out on a unique opportunity.

A group of local LRT supporters are ramping up efforts to talk up the merits of the $1 billion project

Both Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca and Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath say they're looking forward to the city moving ahead with LRT. (City of Hamilton)

Both Ontario's transportation minister and the leader of the Ontario NDP say they'd like Hamilton to get on with building a $1 billion light rail transit (LRT) line.

Steven Del Duca said in a statement Friday that he remains focused on getting shovels in the ground. And Andrea Horwath, Ontario NDP leader and Hamilton Centre MPP, wants Hamilton to move ahead as well.

LRT is the right thing for the city, and we need to stop creating this uncertainty and get behind it.- Andrea Horwath

"I understand the hesitancy," she said Friday after a meeting with health-care workers in Hamilton.

But "if we don't go forward with these kinds of projects, then our city will be kind of lost in time and lose a great opportunity."

One year ago, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced $1 billion for Metrolinx to build an LRT line in Hamilton.

The line will run from McMaster University to the Queenston traffic circle, and down James Street North from King Street to the West Harbour GO station, or the waterfront if budget permits. Construction is due to start in 2019, with the line opening in 2024.

The city has signed a memorandum of understanding with Metrolinx and set up a joint office, and is finalizing a design plan. But some city councillors appear to be getting nervous about the project, putting off a vote last week to formally accept the $1 billion and "reaffirm" Hamilton's commitment to LRT.

Instead, they'll vote on Wednesday after city staffers present the design plan at a city council general issues committee.

Some councillors have expressed concerns over the project, including how it will impact transit throughout the city and the impact of construction on business.

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

Horwath says city council makes its own decisions and has its own debates. "That's something they need to do." But she's always wanted LRT for Hamilton, and still does.

"LRT is the right thing for the city, and we need to stop creating this uncertainty and get behind it, and no pun, get moving on the commitment."

People need to be reminded of how important this is and what the stakes are.- Nicholas Kevlahan, Hamilton Light Rail

"We need to really get serious about providing alternatives to the single-occupancy car."

Meanwhile, a group of pro-LRT residents is launching a renewed effort to spread the word about LRT's positive attributes.

Hamilton Light Rail wants to drive home that LRT will bring economic uplift, that the province has researched it and the provincial money is in hand, and that city council has already studied and supported LRT.

"People need to be reminded of how important this is and what the stakes are," said spokesperson Nicholas Kevlahan.

"We're told that maybe there's a group of silent or less active people who don't support it," he said. But "this debate has been going on for eight years and there's never emerged any organized opposition to LRT."


Statement from Steven Del Duca

"With Metrolinx and the city already working closely to deliver the $1 billion Hamilton LRT project, I remain focused on seeing the planning and design process move forward so that we can begin procurement next year in 2017 and get shovels in the ground by 2019.

With Kathleen Wynne as premier, our government remains steadfast in our commitment to easing gridlock in Hamilton and moving Ontario forward by investing in transportation infrastructure that shortens commute times and grows the economy."

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