No city gets to make up a transit plan on the back of a napkin and expect a funding commitment - especially not a city with a capricious track record.
By Ryan McGreal
Published June 09, 2016
Among the endless permutations of obstructionism and FUD that opponents of Hamilton's light rail transit (LRT) plan have generated, one of the more recent is that LRT supporters are wrong to claim that if we turn down the $1 billion LRT funding, we will lose the money. They have latched onto a recent quote from Premier Kathleen Wynne: "It's never been LRT or nothing."
What the Province has clarified is that if Hamilton City Council changes its mind about the LRT plan, the $1 billion earmarked for it will be released back into the Metrolinx capital funding pool for rapid transit projects in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, and the money will be applied to the next priority projects that are ready and waiting for funding.
Of course, Hamilton would be welcome to start developing a new plan and funding request to submit to the Province, but that process takes years.
Before submitting anything, we would first have to do all the things a City has to do before it is ready to submit a plan for funding. We would have to complete background studies, conduct a feasibility studies, embark on new rounds of public consultation, prepare a class environmental assessment and complete 30 percent engineering design and detailed design work before we had anything to submit for consideration.
No city gets to make up a transit plan on the back of a napkin and expect a funding commitment - especially a city that is capricious enough to spend eight years developing a rapid transit plan only to panic and discard it at the last minute, after it was already approved.
It would be years before we were ready to submit another plan - and the best we could hope for would be a Province that is wary about committing to anything that Council said it wanted. An entirely possible and worse scenario is that the City would be approaching a new Ontario government that is no longer very interested in funding rapid transit projects.
There is a reason the $1 billion is earmarked specifically for the LRT plan: that is the plan the City spent years developing, that is the plan the City submitted to the Province for approval, and that is the plan the Province reviewed and approved for funding.
Between 2008 and 2011, the City studied various rapid transit options and concluded that the biggest overall benefit and prospect for success would come from building LRT on the B-Line as phase 1, with north-south A-Line rapid transit as the next phase.
In turn, the Province did their due diligence in a benefits case analysis and agreed with our plan. The funding approval the Province announced a year ago is based on the fact that we did all the analysis and design work on this plan and are ready for a commitment.
If we change our minds and turn down the LRT money, Hamilton would have to go back to the drawing board. a process that will take years and will end up going to a Province that may no longer be interested in funding rapid transit.
So the Province is not forcing us to do anything: they're just telling us that the only plan they'll commit to funding is the plan that we already did the work of developing and they already reviewed for approval. That is entirely prudent and responsible.
Please take a few moments to tell Council to take YES for an answer, reaffirm its support for LRT and accept the full capital funding from the Province that Council has consistently voted for since 2008.
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