With this approval as part of the Environmental Assessment process, the project can move forward to a request for proposals to build and operate the line.
By Ryan McGreal
Published August 03, 2017
In a letter to the City of Hamilton and Metrolinx, the the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has approved the Environmental Project Report (EPR) Addendum for Hamilton's Light Rail Transit (LRT) plan. This clears an important procedural hurdle to implement the project.
B-Line LRT route from McMaster University to Eastgate Square with higher-order pedestrian connection to Hunter GO Station
The City and Metrolinx are co-proponents of the project, and they submitted the EPR Addendum to the Province on May 29, 2017 after an extremely contentious City Council vote to approve the Addendum. (Metrolinx is a Crown Agency responsible to coordinate regional and rapid transit across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.)
As per Ministry regulations, the EPR Addendum was opened up 30 days of public comments while Ministry staff reviewed the Addendum to ensure it meets Provincial environmental rules.
During that time, the Ministry received 25 objections from LRT opponents. After reviewing the objections and responses from the City and Metrolinx, the Ministry decided to approve the Addendum and allow the project to proceed. The letter, signed by Chris Ballard, newly-appointed Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, is dated August 2, 2017.
The LRT system will be procured using a contract with a consortium to design, build, finance, operate and maintain (DBFOM) the system over 30-years, with Metrolinx retaining ownership of the line and all physical assets.
Metrolinx issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) this past February, in which interested consortia could apply to be considered for a shortlist of companies that Metrolinx considers to be qualified to complete the project.
Now that the EPR Addendum has been approved, Metrolinx will invite a shortlist of qualified parties to submit bids on the contract itself in a Request for Proposals (RFP).
Meanwhile, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 107 has launched a "Keep Transit Public" campaign calling on the Province to have Hamilton's local transit service operate and maintain the LRT system.
Ward 3 Councillor Matthew Green is planning to bring a motion to Councillors at the August 9, 2017 General Issues Committee meeting to have Council ask the Province to let the HSR operate and maintain the LRT system.
It is not clear whether the Province would have to re-issue an RFQ for a contract to design, build and finance the system without operating or maintaining it. If so, that would add several months to the project and risk pushing approval of a contract beyond the next Provincial election.
Following is the text of Minister Ballard's letter on the EPR Addendum:
Dear Mr. Johnson and Mr. Hope:
Thank you for submitting the Environmental Project Report (EPR) Addendum for the Hamilton B-Line Light Rail Transit (LRT) Project on May 29, 2017, which you amended on July 10, 2017, in accordance with Ontario Regulation 231/08 - Transit Projects and Metrolinx Undertakings (Transit Regulation).
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (ministry) received 25 objections to the EPR Addendum. Concerns raised in the objections included air quality and noise impacts, the cost of the project; construction impacts; traffic congestion and safety; transit system network connectivity; and the capacity of roads and bridges to support LRT tracks and vehicles. You were given an opportunity to comment on the objections and the ministry considered your response.
The ministry has completed its review of the amended EPR Addendum and I wish to inform you that I am of the opinion that the proposed changes to the transit project will not have a negative impact on matters of provincial importance related to the natural environment or to a cultural heritage value or interest, or have a negative impact on a constitutionally protected Aboriginal or treaty right. As such, you may now proceed with changes to the Hamilton B-Line LRT project in accordance with the EPR Addendum, as amended July 10, 2017.
Attached is a signed copy of the Notice to Allow a Change to a Transit Project in Accordance with an Addendum issued in accordance with the Transit Regulation. You are responsible for implementing the changes to the project in accordance with the EPR Addendum, as amended.
I would like to ensure that you understand that failure to comply with the provisions of the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA) or its regulations is an offence and may result in prosecution under Section 38 of the EAA. I am confident that you recognize the importance and value of the EAA and will ensure that the requirements of the EAA and the Transit Regulation are satisfied.
Following is the text of the Minister's Notice to Allow a Change to a Transit Project in Accordance with an Addendum:
Ontario Regulation 231/08
RE: Proponents: City of Hamilton and Metrolinx
Project Description: Addendum, as amended and submitted on July 10, 2017, to the Hamilton B-Line Light Rail Transit (LRT) Project Environmental Project Report (EPR), for which a Statement of Completion had been submitted on January 11, 2012. The amended Addendum includes the following proposed changes:
Design modifications to the B-Line Rapid Transit Project EPR completed in 2011
New bus terminal at McMaster University
Assessment of a High-Order Pedestrian Connection on Hughson Street connecting the Hamilton GO Centre on Hunter Street with LRT
Assessment of an Operations Maintenance and Storage Facility where light rail vehicles would be maintained and stored, along with its run-in track in mixed traffic on Frid Street and Longwood Road to Main Street West, across the Longwood Road bridge and via the Frid Street extension
In accordance with Subsection 15(11)(a) of Ontario Regulation 231/08, I hereby give notice allowing the City of Hamilton and Metrolinx to change the transit project in accordance with the Hamilton B-Line Light Rail Transit Project Environmental Project Report Addendum, as submitted to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change on May 29, 2017 and amended on July 10, 2017.
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