LRT study com­ing in for land­ing (a bumpy one?)

All quiet so far, but there are signs the anti-LRT crowd are find­ing their or­ga­ni­za­tional legs

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - AN­DREW DRESCHEL An­drew Dreschel’s com­men­tary ap­pears Mon­day, Wed­nes­day and Fri­day. adreschel@thes­pec.com 905-526-3495 @An­drewDreschel

Coun. Chad Collins’ the­ory that op­po­si­tion to LRT will grow when more im­pact in­for­ma­tion is re­leased may soon be tested.

City staff are de­liv­er­ing a highly an­tic­i­pated pre­lim­i­nary re­port on the traf­fic reper­cus­sions of the project at the Aug. 8 meet­ing of the gen­eral is­sues com­mit­tee.

“It’s not go­ing to have all the gran­u­lar de­tails or all the so­lu­tions,” says LRT co-or­di­na­tor Paul John­son, adding the com­plete re­port won’t be ready un­til the fall.

“It will show in gen­eral where im­pacts are. It’s not all the so­lu­tions to it, but it gives a sense of where we are on the path to­ward deal­ing with the traf­fic sit­u­a­tion.”

The so-called traf­fic mod­el­ling looks at LRT’s im­pact on side roads and ve­hi­cle move­ment and how to deal with the up­heaval along the 11-kilo­me­tre cor­ri­dor from McMaster Univer­sity to the Queen­ston Traf­fic Cir­cle.

The $1 bil­lion provin­cially-funded project is ex­pected to dis­rupt cur­rent traf­fic pat­terns be­cause the two cen­tre lanes along much of the Main-King route will be taken up by LRT tracks, re­duc­ing car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity and elim­i­nat­ing King as an ar­te­rial road.

Re­stricted ac­cess to down­town’s In­ter­na­tional Vil­lage and West­dale, plus se­verely pre­scribed left-hand turns along the route to min­i­mize ve­hi­cles cross­ing the tracks and slow­ing down the trains, will also have a rip­ple ef­fect on traf­fic cir­cu­la­tion.

Collins, LRT’s most vo­cal critic on coun­cil, has pre­vi­ously pre­dicted that op­po­si­tion and the clam­our for an LRT ref­er­en­dum is bound to grow once the pub­lic be­comes more aware of the fall­out on busi­nesses and traf­fic pat­terns.

Cer­tainly to date LRT sup­port­ers who view the project as an eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and ur­ban re­vi­tal­iza­tion god­send have been far more ac­tive and or­ga­nized than the op­po­si­tion.

From the Hamil­ton Cham­ber of Com­merce to the rein­vig­o­rated Hamil­ton Light Rail cit­i­zens’ group and from the sup­port of seven lo­cal MPs and MPPs to ac­tivist Gra­ham Craw­ford’s logo col­lec­tion of 291 (and count­ing) en­dors­ing lo­cal com­pa­nies and or­ga­ni­za­tions, the pro-camp is ef­fi­ciently work­ing to win hearts and minds and keep mal­leable mem­bers of coun­cil on­side.

But there are signs the anti-LRT crowd are find­ing their or­ga­ni­za­tional legs.

Ear­lier this week, a cit­i­zens’ group named “no­hamil­tonlrt” held a meet-and-greet to set the ground­work for grow­ing the op­po­si­tion.

Ted Lazich, co-owner of Gil­bert’s Big and Tall men’s cloth­ing store on King West, says about 25 mainly busi­ness peo­ple at­tended. Donna Skelly was the only mem­ber of coun­cil on deck.

“Ba­si­cally we’re just try­ing to get to know each other. We want an ef­fi­cient cam­paign as well to show the other side,” said Lazich.

Lazich has a num­ber of con­cerns about LRT. He’s wor­ried about the eco­nomic im­pact that chang­ing King to two-way traf­fic with a sin­gle lane in each di­rec­tion will have on busi­nesses, in­clud­ing his own.

“It’s a fam­ily busi­ness. We’ve been here 62 years and we rely on traf­fic.”

Lazich is con­vinced a lot of busi­nesses will go un­der dur­ing the five years of con­struc­tion which starts in 2019.

“We’re re­ally con­cerned be­cause hav­ing two lanes on King Street and an LRT in the mid­dle is not go­ing to help any kind of busi­ness on this street what­so­ever. It’s go­ing to kill it if any­thing.”

Lazich agrees with Collins that more de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the project will cre­ate a gal­va­niz­ing back­lash. Like Collins, he also sup­ports a ref­er­en­dum.

“It gives you a pulse of what the pub­lic feels. Ev­ery­body I talk to, very few say they want this LRT. I’m think­ing they should put this to the peo­ple.”

Ob­vi­ously, the op­po­si­tion has a lot of ground to make up. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see whether staff’s Au­gust traf­fic re­port pro­vides the trac­tion pre­dicted by Collins or leaves them spin­ning their wheels.

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