Brampton's downtown LRT is back on track — but part of it might now go underground
The Hurontario-Main LRT was voted down by the last city council in 2015
Brampton city council has voted to revive a plan to build a downtown LRT, and the city will explore if part of the line could be tunneled underground.
The proposed Hurontario-Main LRT would connect Brampton to downtown Mississauga, but it was voted down in 2015 over concerns that the line would disrupt the city's historic downtown neighbourhood.
On Wednesday, the city's new council voted unanimously to bring the LRT back to Main Street as part of a wider transit plan.
"The residents of Brampton overwhelmingly wanted this route," said Coun. Gurpreet Dhillon, who put the motion forward. "I think people are satisfied that we're thinking big, finally."
The Brampton portion of the LRT is planned to terminate just north of the city's historic downtown, at the Brampton GO Station.
The current version of the line, which is already under development, includes 20 kilometres of track, starting at the Port Credit GO Station. It is due to open in 2022.
"I heard loud and clear from my residents that they wanted us to bring back the debate and I'm very happy to see the support," said Coun. Martin Medeiros, who represents the downtown neighbourhood that would be affected.
"I think it's important that the downtown corridor here has an LRT and transportation that connects both GO trains so I'm very happy about that," said Jennifer Gold, a Brampton resident and business owner.
"We have to get away from this idea that we can't have positive change," said Malcolm Hamilton, a retired teacher who attended Wednesday's council meeting.
"The Main Street LRT is definitely one of those things, it's visionary."
Mayor praises 'compromise' by council
In 2015, Dhillon and Medeiros were among a minority of city councillors who supported the LRT, along with then-mayor Linda Jeffrey.
The council decision to vote down the line in 2015 was loudly criticized, since the provincial government had pledged to pay the full $1.6 billion cost for the project, up to $300 million of which would have gone to the portion of the line in Brampton.
Two of the five councillors who rejected the LRT in 2015 voted in favour of the new transit plan on Wednesday, while the other three are no longer serving on council.
"I'm very pleased that this council has come to a compromise solution where we got all members of council to agree to the same plan," said Mayor Patrick Brown. "That's unheard of in Brampton."
It's not yet clear if any money will be offered by the new Progressive Conservative government but Brown said he does not expect his tense relationship with premier Doug Ford to affect possible funding.
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"We expect him to honour the funding commitments that were made by the previous government a long time ago," he said. "These projects are well on their way."
Will it go underground?
While the motion seeks to revive the original route, councillors are also asking city staff to explore the possibility of building part of the line underground.
Brown added that to the motion at a committee meeting last week, arguing that an underground portion would help preserve the city's heritage district near Queen and Main Streets.
City council is now asking engineers to explore the feasibility and cost of putting part of the line underground, which was previously pegged at around $500 million.
Brown said that funding could be provided by the province, which he argues is already paying for much larger transit projects around Ontario.
"Allowing us to have a small portion that is tunneled still puts this project way under the transit projects of comparable municipalities," Brown said, citing projects in Ottawa, Hamilton and Scarborough.
While the motion to revive the LRT was supported unanimously, a future debate over tunneling may be more contentious.
Dhillon said he does not favour digging a tunnel under the downtown core, but said the idea had to be examined in order to get the motion approved.
"In the spirit of working together, we want to examine that option as well," he said.
Medeiros said he was not open to the prospect of tunneling.
"At this time I'm inclined not to support it," he said.