The deputy Minister of Transport has written Hamilton Council proposing that ministry officials visit Council in June to answer questions about Hamilton’s LRT project. The meeting will be more purposeful if members of council can provide City Manager Janette Smith, who reports to council, with a list of the questions they would like answered.
Some of the obvious ones are:
- Is this project to be a design-build-finance model as was previously projected? Note that large companies like SNC Lavalin have recently said they won’t bid on any more of these projects where the risk lies entirely with the contractor. They had to sue Metrolinx to get compensated for COVID-related delays on the Eglinton Crosstown and they won.
- Who gets the farebox revenue on the LRT-Hamilton or Metrolinx?
- Regardless of who gets the farebox, HSR staff need to provide a financial impact study on the rest of the HSR system, as three of the HSR’s best-performing lines from a revenue perspective will be seriously impacted by the LRT. Right now, the city subsidizes HSR by over $30 Million a year will that go up or down after LRT? Everybody is talking about operating and maintenance costs, but what about the potential of a double whammy with a need for more subsidy for the rest of the HSR?
- Both senior governments, in making their joint funding announcement used the phrase “up to” $1.7 Billion. Who pays if the construction costs run over the $3.4 Billion? Because we know that never happens with projects of this size and scope.
The only way council is going to get straight answers on these critical questions is to be seen to be in change of these discussions. Remember the mushroom treatment council got from Metrolinx officials in the last-go round with council on this topic. One way of achieving that, is to have council take the lead by forming or re-forming the ad-hoc LRT committee that was operating in 2017. Metrolinx must clearly see that they have to deal with council, not a mayor and the city manager, who, in the absence of clear direction from council will be forced to take her cues from Mayor Eisenberger.
This project, from the outset has operated under a cloak of exaggerated claims, behind-the-scenes manipulation and outright falsehoods. Council to a degree, has allowed this to happen, but there is still time to restore some integrity to the process, so that at least council, and the voters can go forward with open eyes.