Hamilton·Updated

Hamilton's post-LRT task force made its $1B recommendation Monday

Hamilton's transportation task force recommended Monday how the province should spend $1 billion in former light-rail transit (LRT) dollars, although it's not clear when the public will know what those recommendations are.

It's not clear when the public will know what the task force is recommending

The province cancelled Hamilton LRT, shown in this artist rendering, in December. (Metrolinx)

Hamilton's transportation task force recommended Monday how the province should spend $1 billion in former light-rail transit (LRT) dollars, although it's not clear when the public will know what those recommendations are.

The task force of five provincial appointees submitted a report to Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney on Monday afternoon regarding if the money should be spent on LRT, rapid transit, or a combination of other transportation projects.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated resources and public attention, but task force chair Tony Valeri says Mulroney has the task force report.

"We've been meeting around the challenges of the pandemic," said Valeri. The group has met remotely over the past week, but "we were really in the final stages of the recommendations themselves."

Mulroney will review the recommendations now, Valeri said, and likely meet with the task force in April, depending on how busy the province is with COVID-19 matters then. 

Provincial officials will "undertake further due diligence such as identifying any commercially sensitive information," the province said in an email Monday. "This will take place prior to any release of key outputs of the task force."

Mulroney announced the task force late last year when she cancelled Hamilton's LRT project.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger, centre, says he has no idea what the recommendations will be. Eisenberger sat with Couns. John-Paul Danko and Maureen Wilson for a Dec. 17 press conference announcing LRT's cancellation, although the press conference was cancelled at the last minute. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

In 2015, the former provincial Liberals announced $1 billion in capital dollars to build the system, which would have run 14 kilometres from McMaster University to Eastgate Square. Mulroney said a third-party estimate last year showed the project was going to cost more than expected.

Now the task force will recommend how to spend the $1 billion in Hamilton transportation projects. The task force is comprised of former Liberal MP Valeri, former Toronto Star journalist Richard Brennan, city manager Janette Smith, LiUNA director of government relations Anthony Primerano, and Saiedeh Razavi, director of the McMaster University Institute for Transportation and Logistics.

The federal government has said it would kick in money to help with Hamilton LRT, but Premier Doug Ford didn't include it on the list this month when he asked Ottawa to help pay for $28.5 billion in Toronto subway projects. 

Valeri wouldn't say much about the recommendations, except that the team pored over documents such as the city's strategic plan and its 10-year master plan. 

"We had a short amount of time, and so we certainly leaned very heavily on the technical expertise of Metrolinx and the City of Hamilton."

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said Friday that he has no idea what the recommendation will be. 

"I know what I'd like them to do, which is recommend LRT as being the best option for the city of Hamilton," he said. "But I don't know. They've been working in a cloak of secrecy, as required by the province of Ontario, and I don't know if we'll know on Monday what their recommendations are going to be."

Eisenberger said he hopes the recommendation is made public "as soon as possible, if not immediately, so that the community at large can understand what the task force is recommending."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She often tweets about Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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