Premier Doug Ford indicated today that he has serious reservations about building an LRT system that would “saddle the taxpayers of Hamilton,” as he put it, with a Billion dollar operating and maintenance tax bill over the next 30 years. He doubled down on the $5.5 Billion estimate of the total cost of Hamilton LRT even though a redacted report obtained by the NDP and the Spectator suggested otherwise. The Spectator and NDP released a heavily-redacted version of the report prepared by the consulting firm Turner and Townsend that had originally pegged the cost of the project at $5.5 Billion –a number that included operating and maintenance costs and borrowing costs. The redacted report suggests a capital costs of $2.3 Billion in 2019 dollars. The one area where the two versions do agree is in the operating and Maintenance costs, both versions pegging it at about $1 Billion; and it was that cost that Premier Doug Ford seized upon in answering a question by CHCH reporter Randy Rath. Rath asked the Premier that, given the new numbers which appeared to be lower than the $5.5 Billion, should Hamilton LRT be allowed to proceed.
The premier responded as follows.
Several members of Hamilton City Council have warned that the operating and maintenance costs could be a deal breaker for them. If the $1 Billion figure in the Turner and Townsend report is accurate, and it has not been challenged to date, it would work out to about $30 Million per year in additional taxes over 30 years. Currently the HSR is subsidized to the tune of about $43 Million per year.The Premier said the report by the LRT task force that was completed last winter is being reviewed by Transport Minister Caroline Mulroney and her staff, but he did not say when a decision on that report will be released. The report recommended consideration of LRT or Bus Rapid Transit as well as upgraded GO service. The report recommended the three options be given equal consideration. The premier’s remarks today seemed to indicate his clear concern about the operating and maintenance costs of a Hamilton LRT.