Tuesday , 30 May 2023
Home Opinion Many loose ends to tie up with Hamilton’s LRT project

Many loose ends to tie up with Hamilton’s LRT project

Fears that gentrification will exacerbate the affordable housing crisis

At the first meeting of Hamilton’s LRT subcommittee in over eight months, members left not much wiser than when they arrived. Except for promises from staff to have more information in meetings in May and July, the roughly 40 minute meeting was mostly about electing officers and meeting members of the LRT team that has been assembled, some of whose salaries are being paid by Metrolinx. Councillor John Paul Danko while expressing continued enthusiasm  for the project posed questions that could be interpreted as seeking reassurance that the project was still on.

The LRT subcommittee meeting came the same day as the posting of a Spectator story about the release of a Waterloo University study, in part funded by the Hamilton Community Foundation, that described the loss of affordable housing that has already taken place through a combination of demolition by Metrolinx and a steep rise in rents caused by land speculation and inflation. The Waterloo report, while saying LRT can still be an overall benefit to the community, acknowledged that the Kitchener-Waterloo LRT resulted in zero new affordable housing, and in Hamilton’s case they noted that housing displacement and housing affordability were already major concerns.

When the former Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna made her announcement of federal support for the project, in 2021, she made a solemn declaration about community benefits and affordable housing that were “conditions” of the funding.

These promises have proven to be illusory. The only ongoing discussion about community benefits and affordable housing is confined to Hamilton among Hamiltonians. Metrolinx issued an acknowledgement of the issue, but so far there has been nothing concrete, certainly there has been no allocation of money. The Federal government told the Bay Observer, when asked about community benefits, that they will be “interested to see the province’s plan” in that regard. What is clear is that if there were “conditions” on LRT funding they haven’t been captured in any written agreement.

At the LRT Subcommittee meeting, staff said there will still design issues to be resolved as a result of various council decisions. For one, Council has voted to make Main Street two way, at a time when it is becoming clearer that the LRT will make King Street virtually impassible for vehicles from Wellington to Mary Street, and significantly restricted for traffic on other sections. The recently-enacted truck route policy will also require some adjustments in design, which staff referred to as “opportunities.”

Any delays in arriving at a final design will push the procurement process out further than it already has been. Staff told committee members that it still appeared a request for qualification(RFQ) of potential bidders could come in the spring of 2024 with the actual RFP—the tender—later in 2024. That almost certainly means there will be no construction until 2025. The tendering of the project will be handled by Infrastructure Ontario, and Vito Sgro who served on the IO Board told the Bay Observer, that a normal RFQ process  usually takes about 6 to 8 months, after which, an RFP for the qualified candidates could take another 6 to 8 months. Infrastructure Ontario told the Bay Observer that they won’t move towards procurement until every detail of the design is settled. The IO website described Hamilton LRT as in the “planning” stage which is two steps away from tendering.

Sgro added, “this assumes, qualified candidates can be found.  Labour and construction shortages are a major issue.” Sgro, who ran for mayor in 2018 opposing the LRT, said, “we started on this (LRT) path 15 years ago and we still don’t have a beginning in sight much less an end date. All we have accomplished so far is a net loss of affordable housing and our infrastructure is falling apart.” He noted that London Ontario, which opted for bus rapid transit has three BRT routes now well under construction.

With prime interest rates two-and-a-half times their rate in 2021 when the project was green-lit, affordability could become an issue for senior governments, although there has been no suggestion of that thus far. What seems a certainty, though, is the project will not likely be built for the $3.4 Billion price tag that was established in 2021.

In addition, Hamilton Council is faced with the cost of rebuilding its transit system post-COVID. A report on redeveloping Hamilton’s transit to harmonize with the LRT spoke of a $19 million price tag, over the $35 -odd million proposed for Hamilton’s 10-year transit plan, which has been paused twice.

At the Friday meeting staff indicated they will be bringing options forward on the issue of who operates the LRT system. That issue will have to be resolved before the city can ink an LRT operating and maintenance agreement with Metrolinx, and depending on the cost to Hamilton for that item, council could be faced with another tough decision.


  • Thankfully, Denningers has a location on the Hamilton Mountain. It’s going to be hard for all those King Street business owners over the next five to seven years.

  • Waste of money except for updating aging infrastructure. This city knows nothing about planning communities. Where is the affordable housing? I can hardly wait until we rip it all out. Mac is building student housing close to Mac as is Columbia. Are we getting an influx of employers because that’s who needs transit most. Has anyone noticed the growth is south on an escarpment? I hate this whole project. The lure of increased property values is the reason we have that piece of garbage Jackson square instead of what the citizens voted for.

  • I am fairly new in Hamilton. Is this the permanent train being carved through the city that only a small percentage of a certain group want?
    Are there surveys of transit users ahowing they want this train?
    Is this the train that does not go anywhere near the downtown GO station?
    The one that makes commuters disembark and walk blocks to a connection at six am? Or be forced to wait for a bus to take them to the train?
    Is there an estimate for how much this train project will cost property tax payers over time?
    Is there an estimate on how much it’s already cost, over the past 15 years, and exactly where that money went?
    Is there accounting for problems resulting in expenditures like the inquiry into the Red Hill Parkway, which I read has cost property tax payers thirty million dollars so far?
    Just trying to make some sense of this thing the pols, progressives and consultants seem to want so badly.

    • The planned transit connection is not bad at all. It would connect to regional and local transit systems. Public LRT instructure almost always outweights the costs of not building one – especially in decades of growth.

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