Province says Hamilton's LRT plan can move forward

In a letter from Environment Minister Chris Ballard, the province gives the city of Hamilton and Metrolinx the go-ahead on its LRT project.
A rendering shows what an LRT stop could look like on King Street W. and Dundurn St. (Steer Davies Gleave)

The province has given the city of Hamilton and Metrolinx the go-ahead on its LRT project.

A letter sent Wednesday from Environment Minister Chris Ballard, marks the official OK from the province after the city submitted its amended environmental review of the project after a contentious, marathon council meeting in April.

The signoff was required to accommodate the changes to the plan over the years, including the April decision to send the LRT all the way out to Eastgate Square instead of just to the Queenston Traffic Circle. 

Ballard's office reviewed the plan for any impacts to cultural and natural environments, as well as to Indigenous land rights. Though there were 25 official complaints lodged with the ministry, the minister concluded the plan can go ahead as contemplated.

"I am of the opinion that the proposed changes to the transit project will not have a negative impact on matters of provincial importance," Ballard's letter states. 

In a tweet, Mayor Fred Eisenberger welcomed the news.

The letter will be presented formally to councillors at next week's General Issues Committee meeting on Aug. 9.

Also at that meeting, councillors are scheduled to discuss a motion from Coun. Matthew Green to have HSR, rather than a private company, operate Hamilton's light rail transit (LRT) system. 

If councillors agree, the city will ask Metrolinx to include it in a legally binding master agreement due before the end of the year. And it will, Green says, keep transit along the 14 kilometre route public, rather than giving up control to a private corporation.

But Metrolinx is already well along the way in its process of shortlisting bidders for the project, and so far, it seems unlikely to change course.

The agency issued a call for interest for companies — likely a consortium — in February to not only design and build the 14-kilometre system from McMaster University to Eastgate Square, but to operate it as well. It would likely be a public-private partnership, Metrolinx said.