LRT, King Street route reaffirmed
Planning for Hamilton’s light rail transit project is rolling full steam ahead despite a recent councillor’s report challenging it, another councillor suggesting a lack of public support, and a business leader decrying the confusion over whether it is proceeding.
The LRT, and its route on King Street — which continue to be debated notwithstanding repeated approvals — were reaffirmed at Tuesday’s five-hour LRT committee meeting. But not before there were heated discussions caused by disagreement from Mountain councillors Terry Whitehead and Donna Skelly.
Whitehead released a report Monday challenging the $1-billion lower city project from Queenston traffic circle to McMaster University, but on Tuesday said it was a political report meant to promote careful oversight.
“To make it work, we better understand the good, the bad and the ugly,” he said about the construction impacts on businesses and traffic, and if there will be enough ridership.
Skelly said she is hearing “a tremendous amount of opposition” and questioned the support the committee has been shown. “If you really want to gauge public support, put it to a referendum,” she said.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger reminded everyone the committee’s purpose is to implement the LRT.
Committee member Susan Braithwaite of the International Village BIA, however, said businesses on King Street are unsure the project is going ahead.
“There is confusion based on what we hear and read in the media,” she said, adding businesses need better leadership on preparing for the impact of the street dug up for an extended time. “We need to hear that the LRT is happening — 100 per cent.”
Debate then ensued among councillors on whether the project was “a done deal.”
Ancaster Coun. Lloyd Ferguson urged the committee not to go “down that track.”
“We’ve been having this debate for several years. This train has left the station,” he pleaded. “A majority of council supported this … so please, can we get on with this …”
City manager Chris Murray said the city has an agreement with Metrolinx to build the LRT.
Businessperson Mary Aduckiewicz of Denninger’s told the committee her store and others wanted the LRT to go on Main Street, where construction won’t hurt as many businesses as it will on King.
“We’ve weathered a lot of storms, ups and downs over 62 years,” she said of Denninger’s. “We’re not sure if we can weather another extended construction period.”
City LRT project manager Paul Johnson said King is the approved route since 2011, when the province approved an environmental assessment on the city’s original LRT route that extended to Eastgate Square. Among the reasons for rejecting Main is that it is a truck route, and that the LRT is incompatible with the 403 interchange.
Coun. Matt Green talks with Mary Aduckiewicz of Denninger’s during presentations Tuesday from King Street business owners. Businesses heard once again LRT is well underway and the route brings it down King Street.