Special Report: Light Rail

Liberals Announce $1 Billion Funding Commitment for LRT, GO Expansion

Full capital funding for an LRT line running between McMaster and Queenston Traffic Circle with a link to the waterfront and expanded GO service to Stoney Creek.

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 26, 2015

The Ontario Government announced full capital funding for Light Rail Transit (LRT) and expanded GO service at a press conference this morning held in McMaster University.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Ted McMeekin, Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig, Transport Minister Steven Del Duca and Premier Kathleen Wynne at the Hamilton funding announcement
Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Ted McMeekin, Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig, Transport Minister Steven Del Duca and Premier Kathleen Wynne at the Hamilton funding announcement

The Government will spend "up to $1 billion" on a phased east-west B-Line LRT route running between McMaster University and Quenston Traffic Circle, with an eventual plan to extend the line to Eastgate Square in the future.

The new LRT line will also include a north-south line running on James Street North to the waterfront and connecting the new West Harbour GO station, which is currently under construction.

At the same time, the Province also announced expanded GO service to a new station on Centennial Parkway, which will start construction in 2017.

You can watch a video of the event, recorded by Joey Coleman of The Public Record:

The announcement was moderated by McMaster University President Patrick Deane, and featured presentations by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Transport Minister Steven Del Duca, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Ted McMeekin, who is also MPP for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig, and Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger.

Responding to a question, Minister Del Duca said the Province will be "sitting down with the City to define the scope of the project, what is included" in the funding, with "a very solild commitment of up to $1 billion to complete the project."

The shorter initial line length, terminating at Queenston Traffic Circle, came about through discussions with the City about how to achieve a connection to the West Harbour GO station and expand GO service to Stoney Creek while staying within the $1 billion budget.

Asked about the City's request of $302 million to pay for local service expansion and a new bus storage facility, Del Duca said, "The focus of the announcement today is LRT and the extension of GO service."

He added the Government will look at "other ways the Province can work creatively with the municipality to support additional requests."

Asked whether this project needs another Council vote to go ahead, Del Duca replied, "I certainly think there is tremendous support to move ahead with these projects."

Wynne: Build Up by Investing in Infrastructure

In her prepared remarks, Premier Wynne said, "It is the goal of everyone in this room to increase the viability of this city and the prosperity that everyone can enjoy."

Premier Wynne at Hamilton LRT announcement
Premier Wynne at Hamilton LRT announcement

Wynne spoke about Ontario's - and Hamilton's - history of strategic investment in transportation infrastructure and the great benefits we have enjoyed from it. "We built our selves up by investing in infrastructure."

After noting that the Province has fallen far behind on its infrastructure spending, Wynne stated that her Government is "making up for lost time" through the Moving Ontario plan.

She noted that Hamilton is undergoing a renaissance: "There is so much happening here in Hamilton. You have a lot to be proud of and a lot to be excited about." However, "We can't take our success for granted. The [Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area] needs a modern transportation system to seamlessly connect our communities."

"Today, we need infrastructure that drives Hamilton's economic prosperity in the 21st century knowledge economy."

She emphasized the economic benefits that come from high quality transit investment, concluding, "When Hamilton succeeds, we all succeed."

Then she announced: "The Government of Ontario will be providing up to $1 billion to fund a new light rail line in Hamilton." The announcement was met with sustained applause, after which Wynne said, "I sensed that you were just kind of waiting for that."

After pointing out a young child in the audience, Wynne argued that the investments we make today will benefit future generations. "The point is that government exists to make long-term investments, to look into the future, and to do things that we cannot do on our own."

Del Duca: Determination to Make the Right Decisions

Next, Transport Minister Steven Del Duca credited the Premier's "determination to make the right decisions" and reiterated the position, "Ontarians want us to put progress ahead of politics."

Del Duca drew laughter and applause, saying, "The Hamilton L RT - yes, I said 'L' - will be a critical link" connecting Hamiltonians to each other and to the greater region.

He added that the LRT line to Queenston is only a first phase and that it will extend "ultimately to Eastgate Square".

He noted that large infrastructure projects "take time" and "can be disruptive, but imagine the change when we get it completed."

McCuaig: Build Excitement

Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig stated that Metrolinx will continue to work with the City to finalize the details of the LRT construction and "work with the community to build excitement" about the project.

He said, "We believe strongly in the benefits of the Hamilton LRT project and the increases to GO train service."

"I look forward to delivering new services to this city."

McMeekin: Credits LRT Supporters

Minister Ted McMeekin, MPP for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, came on stage chanelling Mr. Rogers. "It's a beautiful day in the neighbourhood."

Minister Ted McMeekin
Minister Ted McMeekin

Calling the announcement "a truly historic moment for our community," McMeekin praised Premier Wynne and Minister Del Duca, who "listened to the people of Hamilton, carefully."

He also gave credit to the many LRT supporters in Hamilton, including former Councillor Brian McHattie, the volunteers of Hamilton Light Rail, who have advocated for years for LRT in Hamilton, and "each of the folks who sent me the 20,000 tweets over the past four years."

In a particularly classy moment, McMeekin specifically named your humble RTH editor "and his team who came together and worked hard to keep this vision in our minds."

"To the Light Rail group and others who have been championing this cause for a long time, a very sincere thank you. You literally kept this thing on the rails."

Eisenberger: We've Put the L in LRT

Mayor Fred Eisenberger noted that we have been building toward this announcement "from the days when I first got on the Metrolinx board" during his first term as Mayor. He said, "We've put the L in the LRT" to applause.

He also noted the benefits of the GO service expansion, which is great news for Niagara Region as well: "many wins all around."

Making reference to the years of confusion and backpedaling, Eisenberger said, "I'm hoping today that the enthusiasm will be back and we're all going to move forward to implement this."

"Things are looking good for Hamilton."

The meeting was also attended by former Mayor Bob Bratina, City Manager Chris Murray, Planning and Economic Development General Manager Jason Thorne, Finance Director Mike Zegarac, several councillors and Chamber of Commerce CEO Keanin Loomis.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted May 26, 2015 at 10:13:02

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By mkuplens (registered) - website | Posted May 26, 2015 at 11:22:13 in reply to Comment 111748

Odds are the traffic circle turnaround will just use the loop to turn around with the actual stop a little west of the circle. It's a great facility for short-turning in the event of line problems east/west following the expansion to Eastgate (assuming that transpires in the 2020/30s).

For transit connections, I wouldn't be too shocked if they acquire property to the south of the circle (such as the car dealership) for a transit interchange. The hydro corridor north of the circle looks like a great route for transfer to a north-end yard & connection to a parallel Barton line down the road if demand justifies it, although a yard to the west of Mac's campus (currently a ton of surface parking) could also be an option.

It'll be interesting to see how everything shakes out in the coming years!

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 26, 2015 at 13:54:31 in reply to Comment 111753

Are you sure they'd need a transit interchange? Most of the buses leaving the traffic circle will be coming from and going to the east (at least for a few blocks), and so the traffic circle will provide great utility for the inevitable U-turn. I'm imagining a bunch of signed bus-stops just east of the circle.

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By YouJustAint (anonymous) | Posted May 26, 2015 at 10:15:37 in reply to Comment 111748

Dude, just switch off for 5 minutes and enjoy this. Lots of time to answer all these questions and more

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By Murella (anonymous) | Posted May 26, 2015 at 12:58:12 in reply to Comment 111750

Collins, what an idiot. What a blown opportunity for his ward. Imagine new GO station AND LRT, but no he had to oppose it.

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted May 26, 2015 at 11:11:02 in reply to Comment 111750

Methinks Chad Collins is inviting a "developmentally delayed" jibe.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 26, 2015 at 12:00:32

Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla sent out the following notice of motion to local media:

Whereas, the Province of Ontario has just announced that the City of Hamilton will receive LRT funding that will see the B-Line run from McMaster University through downtown Hamilton to Queenston Circle, Ward 4, East Hamilton and;

Whereas, the LRT will connect directly to the new West Harbour GO Station, which is now under construction, and protect for a future, high-order pedestrian connection to the Hamilton Centre GO Station and;

Whereas, procurement for the LRT will start in 2017, with construction starting in 2019 and;

Whereas, the province will extend GO rail service on the Lakeshore West line from the West Harbour GO Station at James Street North to a new GO station at Centennial Parkway in eastern Hamilton, with construction is expected to begin in 2017, with completion in 2019 and;

Whereas this undertaking equates to over $1B in investment, including construction and;

Whereas this announcement and scope of work will affect significant regions of the entire City of Hamilton, specifically around the B-Line, and GO station(s);

Therefore be it resolved that:

  1. The City Manager be directed to report back on creating an office to facilitate this work, one that will work closely with Metrolinx and;

  2. That a sub-committee of Council be struck and that at minimum, the affected Councillors along the B-Line corridor be asked to participate on the sub-committee.

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By Jebus (anonymous) | Posted May 27, 2015 at 02:21:19 in reply to Comment 111754

Thank you. Thank You!

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By ChadColon (anonymous) | Posted May 26, 2015 at 12:56:07

Chad Collins, please resign. Not only have you failed people in your ward by opposing LRT, but you have especially failed the many seniors who live there, who would need better public transit to get around. Shame on you.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 26, 2015 at 13:03:03

Here is the text of the Ontario Government's press release:

Ontario Investing Up to $1 Billion for Light Rail Transit in Hamilton

New LRT Will Help Drive Economic Growth and Improve Quality of Life

May 26, 2015 8:30 A.M.

Office of the Premier

Ontario will provide up to $1 billion to build a new light rail transit (LRT) line in Hamilton as part of the largest infrastructure investment in Ontario's history.

Premier Kathleen Wynne announced the funding today while in Hamilton. The province will cover 100 per cent of the capital costs of building the LRT, which will help grow the economy, reduce travel times and connect people to jobs and to other transit systems.

New, modern light rail vehicles on tracks separated from regular traffic will offer speedy service from McMaster University through downtown Hamilton to Queenston Circle. The LRT will connect directly to the new West Harbour GO Station, which is now under construction, and protect for a future, high-order pedestrian connection to the Hamilton Centre GO Station. The LRT will ultimately extend to Eastgate Square. Procurement for the LRT will start in 2017, with construction starting in 2019.

In the 2015 Budget, the government committed to investing in rapid transit in Hamilton as part of the Moving Ontario Forward plan. Through this plan, Ontario will invest $31.5 billion over 10 years in public transit, transportation and other priority infrastructure projects across the province. The Hamilton LRT project aligns with the government's priority of investing in rapid transit projects that will connect to GO Transit and other transit systems across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).

The Premier also announced an additional expansion of transit service in Hamilton. The province will extend GO rail service on the Lakeshore West line from the West Harbour GO Station at James Street North to a new GO station at Centennial Parkway in eastern Hamilton. Construction is expected to begin in 2017, with completion in 2019.

Investing in priority transit infrastructure is part of the government's plan to build Ontario up. The four-part plan includes investing in people's talents and skills, making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario's history, creating a dynamic, innovative environment where business thrives, and building a secure retirement savings plan.

Quick Facts

  • Construction is currently underway to build the new West Harbour GO Station to be open in time for the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games.

  • To ensure that every region in the province benefits fairly from Moving Ontario Forward, the government is allocating dedicated funds to the GTHA and outside the GTHA based on their relative shares of the population using census data from Statistics Canada.

  • The Moving Ontario Forward plan is expected to support more than 20,000 jobs per year, on average, in construction and related industries over the next 10 years.

  • Over the next 10 years, weekly trips across the GO rail network will grow from about 1,500 trips to nearly 6,000. The government is working with its agency Metrolinx to bring Regional Express Rail service to the GO rail network.

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By and re GO.. (anonymous) | Posted May 26, 2015 at 15:33:49

Related matter, neither Spec nor RaiseTH has [recently?] talked about which GO services will move from Hunter to way up north, and, if some GO are then at BOTH locations, will HSR join the two?

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By Dylan (registered) | Posted May 26, 2015 at 17:52:43 in reply to Comment 111764

My understanding is that the Hunter station will remain the primary, and I've not seen an indication that its schedule will be altered. West harbour will be getting, to start, two new trains in the morning, with two returns in the evening. That being said I don't believe anything has been finalized and announced.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 26, 2015 at 18:52:59

Fantastic day for Hamilton! We've been at this for a decade or more. So many people worked hard behind the scenes to bring this to pass. Well done by all.

Great motion by Merulla to insist at very least the councillors in affected wards be on the sub-committee.

Great day for the Hammer and our urban economic future!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 27, 2015 at 08:16:48

The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce issued the following press release yesterday:

Hamilton Chamber of Commerce applauds the Province of Ontario's $1.2 Billion Capital Investment Light Rail Transit system and new GO Station in Hamilton.

Hamilton, ON, May 26th, 2015: The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce is overjoyed by this morning's announcement by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne that the Province of Ontario has committed to funding approximately $1.2 Billion in the City of Hamilton to cover 100% of the capital costs of the B-Line Light Rail line and a new GO Station at Centennial Street.

The project is expected to run along the B-Line corridor from McMaster University to Queenston traffic circle on an additional link to the new West Harbour GO Station; with plans to eventually expand it to Eastgate square. The funding is a portion of the approximately $15 billion in funding allocated to the GTHA for projects as part of their Big Move Strategy. Procurement for the LRT will start in 2017, with construction starting in 2019.

"The Chamber, its board and its membership are ecstatic with today's $1.2 billion investment to lock in and in fact accelerate Hamilton's economic revival." said Keanin Loomis, President & CEO of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. "The Province of Ontario has shown significant leadership and faith in our community by embracing the business case for LRT in Hamilton. A lot of work still remains, but it's our turn as a city to coalesce and create the conditions necessary to maximize the economic uplift."

The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and its membership have had a long-standing interest in the LRT file. Comprising private businesses, business improvement areas, public sector institutions, three Hamilton City Councillors, the Hamilton-Halton Homebuilders' Association and the Realtors' Association of Hamilton-Burlington, the Chamber established its LRT Task Force in early 2012 to:

  • Provide a business assessment of the B-Line LRT project that the City has been advancing;
  • Provide input and perspective on funding options for the project; and,
  • Develop and execute a government relations and community engagement plan in support of the project.

Through subsequent meetings the LRT Task Force comprehensively evaluated available academic and government research. Two documents in particular - the City of Hamilton's Rapid Ready Report and The North American Light Rail Experience: Insights for Hamilton study from the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics (MITL) - greatly informed the LRT Task Force's ultimate determination that there is a strong business case for the B-Line LRT project in accelerating economic revitalization of Hamilton.

"Enhanced regional connectivity through increased GO service at West Harbor and Centennial will also create economic uplift. Today's announcements are necessary and very balanced infrastructural investments in our community." added Loomis.

Through numerous letters and submissions, as well as meetings with elected officials at all levels of government, the Chamber has been a longstanding advocate for building up Hamilton's high order transportation infrastructure.

The Chamber will reconvene its LRT Task Force to discuss how businesses and public sector institutions can help get this project across the finish line.

Established in 1845, the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce is the definitive "Voice of Hamilton Business". Representing over 1000 members and 75,000 employees, it champions the interests of free enterprise by effectively engaging business, community, and government leaders in the promotion of the long-term economic prosperity of our region.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted May 27, 2015 at 10:10:36

Thank you to the Light Rail team and others, who have all been advocating for this. This is the type of City I hope my children will want to continue to call home when they set down their own roots.

From bike lanes to Sobi bikes, this City is looking more and more each day, like a City moving forward in the right direction. It's exciting.

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