Light rail transit in Hamilton. – Courtesy of City of Hamilton
Hamilton wants to know what costs the provincial government will cover for the city’s $1-billion light rail transit project if it goes over budget.
Councillors have been caught scratching their heads over what some say is a confusing message from provincial officials and politicians. While the province has said Hamilton will receive the $1 billion in capital funding to build the LRT, Hamilton residents will be forced to pick up the tab if there are cost overruns.
Stoney Creek Coun. Brad Clark introduced a motion at the Feb. 13 council meeting requesting provincial Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek clarify the current government’s policy regarding responsibility for any costs that exceed the current $1-billion budget.
“We need to have these things in writing,” Flamborough Coun. Judi Partridge said. “If there are any extra costs or not (residents) need to know about that.”
Mountain Coun. Tom Jackson said there have been “mixed messages” from provincial officials and Flamborough-Glanbrook Progressive Conservative MPP Donna Skelly about the funding plan for the LRT.
“This is simply about providing further clarity,” said Jackson.
Mountain Coun. Terry Whitehead said this is a “prudent” time to ask questions, arguing the Progressive Conservatives are focused on cutting costs to reduce the province’s deficit.
“This is not status quo,” he said.
Premier Doug Ford has stated prior to the municipal election last fall, and after, that the province will provide Hamilton with the $1 billion for the LRT.
Last month, though, Skelly told CHML that Hamilton will have to pay for any additional construction costs for the LRT if it exceeds $1 billion.
She indicated there are questions about how much it will cost to build the eastern end of the LRT project from the Queenston Traffic Circle to Eastgate Square.
After a short delay, the former Liberal government agreed in 2017 to extend the LRT to Eastgate Square. The decision was an attempt by the province to get hesitant local councillors on board and support the LRT project.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger has been attempting to arrange a meeting with the transportation minister to answer questions and clarify the LRT budget.
Councillors opposed to the motion were John-Paul Danko of Ward 8 and Ward 1’s Maureen Wilson.
Metrolinx issued a Request for Proposals to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the Hamilton LRT project in April 2018. The contract is scheduled to be awarded later this year.
The 14-kilometre east-west LRT line will operate from McMaster University to Eastgate Square, primarily along Main Street and Queenston Road.