Brampton city council votes down LRT line

Brampton City Council voted down a plan early Wednesday to build a light-rail transit line that had divided both residents and lawmakers because it would have cut through the city’s historic Main Street.

Mayor 'disappointed' proposed transit line voted down after marathon meeting

Brampton residents packed the Rose Theatre for last night's vote on a plan to run a light rail line through the city's heritage district. After six-hour meeting, the plan was voted down. (CBC)

Brampton city council voted down a plan early Wednesday to build a light-rail transit (LRT) line that had divided both residents and lawmakers because it would have cut through the city's historic Main Street.

The marathon meeting ended in a close vote to end the Hurontario-Main LRT line at Steeles Avenue. 

Mayor Linda Jeffery told the Brampton Guardian she's "disappointed" at the decision and will work with senior governments to come up with future transit solutions. 

After years of planning and delays, the fate of the Brampton portion of the Hurontario-Main LRT line, which will connect the city to Mississauga, hinged on last night's vote. The Ministry of Transportation had set a deadline of Oct. 31 for a decision, and no other meetings were scheduled before then.

Funding will go elsewhere

More than 60 speakers made their case to council last night. The meeting was moved from city hall to the Rose Theatre to accommodate the number of people who wanted to attend. The meeting began at 7 a.m. and concluded with the vote just before 1 a.m. Wednesday. 

Jeffrey called the vote one of the most important in the city's history.

"I think it's one of the biggest we'll ever make, and people will look back years from now and I hope we make the right decision," Jeffrey told CBC News before the vote.

The province had pledged to fund the full $1.6 billion cost of the project, but only if council approved the proposed route along Hurontario Street, which would include Brampton's historic Main Street, ending at the Brampton GO station. 

Ontario Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca said Wednesday the money that would have gone to Brampton's portion of the line — between $200 million and $300 million — will be used to pay for other transit improvements via the Ontario Moving Forward fund. 

"It could go to any community in the GTHA," Del Duca told reporters. 

But, he added, work will go ahead as planned south of Brampton — building an LRT that runs south from Steeles Avenue to the Port Credit GO Station. 

That work needs to begin next month, he said. 

Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca says the funding unused by Brampton will go to other area transit projects. (CBC)

Worsening congestion

With a growing population and worsening congestion, Brampton residents agreed on the need for more public transit.

"I think anything would be better than these buses that go thundering up and down the street," one resident said.

"It's got to go somewhere," another resident said. "You keep bringing people in, you keep wanting the tax revenue, you've got to make space for transit. There's no way around it."

But other residents opposed the route, which would cut through the historic part of Main Street north of Steeles. Among the opponents were former Ontario premier Bill Davis, who recently added his voice to the debate.

Davis noted that his own house is set back from the street, so his opposition wasn't personal.

"But it's a question of whether it's the right route for it. There are some of us (who) would argue maybe Kennedy Road," Davis told CBC News earlier Tuesday.

"Is it really going to help the downtown of Brampton, which needs help? So I think a number of us felt that perhaps there was a better route."

There are alternative routes that had been proposed by some city councillors, including routes along McLaughlin and Kennedy.

But those proposals didn't include full funding from the province. Jeffrey, who supported the main proposal, called the project "a game-changer" for the city.

"I think this could change the way people look at Brampton," Jeffrey said. "See it as a big city. Evolving, growing."