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
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.