LRT will axe most street trees on route

Ninety per cent of 600 trees to be re­moved

The Hamilton Spectator - - Front Page - MATTHEW VAN DON­GEN

Light rail tran­sit con­struc­tion will force the ax­ing of most of the 600 street trees along the King-MainQueen­ston cor­ri­dor.

The builder of the proposed $1bil­lion LRT line will be asked to re­place those trees wher­ever pos­si­ble along the 14-kilo­me­tre route — but re­al­is­ti­cally, there will be “sig­nif­i­cantly fewer” street trees along the cor­ri­dor once trains be­gin rolling, said Kris Ja­cob­son, the city lead on the Metrolinx-man­aged project.

A project up­date go­ing to coun­cil­lors May 31 es­ti­mates an ini­tial “90 per cent de­crease” in trees cur­rently main­tained along parts of Main Street, King Street and Queen­ston Road.

That same re­port gives cheerier news about costs to the city from po­lit­i­cally chal­lenged project, in­clud­ing a cheaper es­ti­mate — $2 mil­lion, in­stead of al­most $10 mil­lion pre­vi­ously sug­gested — for what it will cost the city along the line for ser­vices like clearing snow, col­lect­ing garbage and trim­ming trees.

Forestry costs will be a wash for

the project be­cause trees lost along the route will be re­placed, just not nec­es­sar­ily on the new tran­sit line.

Ja­cob­son said the win­ning bid­der for the mas­sive project will be en­cour­aged to find “ev­ery avail­able op­por­tu­nity” to re­place axed trees within the cor­ri­dor. But where that’s not pos­si­ble, he said the city will be com­pen­sated in an amount that al­lows re­plant­ing of the same num­ber or — ideally — more trees near the tran­sit cor­ri­dor.

It won’t be clear how many can ac­tu­ally be re­planted along the fledg­ling LRT line until the win­ning bid­der sub­mits de­sign and con­struc­tion plan doc­u­ments, he said.

The city will also in­sist on strategic re­plant­ing and new green land­scap­ing in pedes­trian-fo­cused ar­eas like the In­ter­na­tional Vil­lage, where a “shared street” con­cept sim­i­lar to Gore Park is en­vi­sioned. This would also in­clude coloured con­crete, ur­ban braille and raised plant­ing beds.

“But I think we have to be re­al­is­tic about the fact that it will be a very tight cor­ri­dor,” Ja­cob­son said, point­ing to chal­leng­ing street widths and com­pli­cated, grow­ing un­der­ground in­fra­struc­ture. “We’re likely look­ing at sig­nif­i­cantly fewer (trees) within the ac­tual cor­ri­dor.”

Other vis­ual changes aside from the loss of shady street trees would in­clude the re­moval of cur­rent hang­ing planter bas­kets and most me­dian flower beds, given the mas­sive over­haul of the streetscape re­quired for rail lines, the re­port says.

That in­cludes the ex­pected re­lo­ca­tion of most street lights onto LRT cate­nary poles. Those poles, which carry the elec­tri­cal wires needed to power LRT cars, are proposed to be black in colour and will nor­mally be lo­cated in the cen­tre of the street.

Some res­i­dents op­posed to LRT have ob­jected to the loss of trees – and vi—ual re­place­ment by metal cate­nary tow­ers – for a —ro­ject billed as a cleaner, greener trans­porta­tion mode.

If the project goes ahead, it will take time for re­planted street trees to re­turn to “canopy” size along the cor­ri­dor. But project fans note the LRT will fill in as a car­bon­buster while those trees grow up.

Metrolinx stud­ies sug­gest the elec­tricpow­ered LRT ve­hi­cles will even­tu­ally dis­place enough buses and cars to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions by 8,500 tonnes an­nu­ally. That’s the car­bon se­ques­tra­tion equiv­a­lent of plant­ing 200,000 tree seedlings and let­ting them grow for a decade.

The last tree-re­lated news flash for LRT in­cluded the rev­e­la­tion that po­ten­tially en­dan­gered but­ter­nut trees were found on the west-end site of the proposed main­te­nance and oper­at­ing fa­cil­ity off of Frid Street.

A study found the trees should not be in too much dan­ger as a re­sult of con­struc­tion, but Coun. Ai­dan John­son moved a mo­tion ask­ing for ex­tra efforts to pre­serve the but­ter­nuts.

HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR MATTHEW VAN DON­GEN

Most street lights along the LRT route will be re­lo­cated onto cate­nary poles, like the ones pic­tured here from Water­loo. The poles, which carry the elec­tri­cal wires needed to power LRT cars, are proposed to be black in colour and will nor­mally be lo­cated in the cen­tre of the street.

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