Hamilton

Province set to scrap James North portion of Hamilton LRT for 'alternatives'

Ontario is looking at "alternatives" to the spur line that would run from King Street East to the West Harbour GO station.

Ontario could announce 'alternatives' to the spur line in a couple of weeks

Hamilton's LRT system may not include a spur line running down James Street North to the West Harbour GO station. (City of Hamilton)

The province is looking at scrapping the James Street North A-line portion of Hamilton's light rail transit (LRT) system for a more cost-effective alternative, CBC News has learned.

There's been a reassessment of the value of the spur, and they're looking at alternatives that would have more value.- Mayor Fred Eisenberger

Current plans have the $1 billion system running alternately down Main and King streets from McMaster University to the Queenston traffic circle. Metrolinx also planned a spur line from King Street East to along James Street to the West Harbour GO station — or the waterfront, budget permitting.

When asked Wednesday about the James North spur, Mayor Fred Eisenberger confirmed it is being reconsidered. He told CBC Hamilton he's expecting the province to come forward with alternatives "in the next couple of weeks."

"They're looking at it and there may be some alternatives that come forward," Eisenberger said.

He wouldn't elaborate on what those alternatives are, such as extending rapid transit to the Mountain, meeting cost increases elsewhere along the line or following the original plan of LRT running to Eastgate Square.

Hamilton's LRT plan now includes a stop at Gage Park. Metrolinx and the city are holding three public information centres this month, and three question-and-answer sessions. Procurement will start soon. (Metrolinx/City of Hamilton)

"I don't want to prejudge what's coming down the pipe," he said.

"I would expect there's been a reassessment of the value of the spur, and they're looking at alternatives that would have more value in terms of the money we have in place."

The spur line always felt like the weakest part of the plan for me.- Ryan McGreal

The A-line was a relative surprise in the province's 2015 announcement to pay for LRT anyway.

The spur line, said Premier Kathleen Wynne, was meant to connect LRT to the West Harbour GO station. The goal, she said, is regional connectivity.

But LRT already passes close to the Hunter Street GO station. And plans include a pedestrian boulevard along Hughson Street to get there.

"The spur line always felt like the weakest part of the plan for me," said Ryan McGreal, a local LRT advocate and editor of Raise the Hammer.

There could be an opportunity to have a higher order service running north-south.- Ryan McGreal

"It's street cars running in mixed traffic," he said. "That's a lot of capital expense for what wasn't going to be a big transit boost."

McGreal said he wouldn't mind seeing bus rapid transit extending to the Mountain, or the original plan to extend the line to Eastgate Square.

"There could be an opportunity to have a higher order service running north-south," he said.

Metrolinx will begin procurement this year on Hamilton LRT. The city is giving input. The system will likely be run via a private-public partnership. 

samantha.craggs@cbc.ca | @SamCraggsCBC

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