This week, we heard contradictory messages from Provincial officials on whether Hamilton will have to contribute some capital funding toward the B-Line LRT.
By Ryan McGreal
Published March 06, 2013
Will Hamilton be expected to contribute some of the capital cost of a planned east-west LRT line? Will the amount we contribute help determine Hamilton's place in the Metrolinx priority list? It seems to be impossible to get a straight answer to these questions.
Just this week, Hamilton heard two contradictory messages from Provincial officials.
On Monday, Spectator columnist Andrew Dreschel quoted Leslie Woo, vice-president of policy, planning and innovation for Metrolinx:
"If a municipality has an ability to present a financial contribution to the projects, that gets bonus points," Woo said in an interview.
Acccording to Dreschel's column, Metrolinx will use a city's direct capital contribution as one of its criteria in determining the order in which projects in its phase 2 priority list get completed.
On the same day, an article [behind a paywall] in YourHamiltonBiz.com quotes Transport minister Glen Murray saying the opposite:
"I am not looking, and nor do I think Metrolinx will be looking, to be influenced by direct municipal contributions to rate the priority of projects," Murray said in an interview.
"As much as we, of course, always love to have our municipal government partners as co-investors in these strategies, it is not part of how we rate the projects."
According to the article, Murray said the priority is to "maximize the growth in your tax base and the attraction of new investment and new jobs and private sector investment".
He added, "Hamilton is really leading the way on that" and praised Hamilton's "really good strategy about value planning and using infrastructure to help build your tax base to build infrastructure."
This mixed messaging on LRT funding is not new.
As recently as the October 13, 2011 general issues committee meeting, Metrolinx vice-president John Howe told Hamilton City Councillors, "100 percent capital funding is the current Metrolinx funding assumption. And I think it was depicted clearly in the York Region example. That's our current funding assumption model for the Hamilton LRT project."
But last August, Mayor Bob Bratina announced that then-Transport Minister Bob Chiarelli told him Hamilton would have to cover some of the capital costs. However, neither Chiarelli nor anyone at Metrolinx would confirm how much this share might be.
In a CBC article on the same day, Metrolinx spokesperson Malon Edwards also confirmed that Metrolinx intends to provide full public funding.
However, Edwards has repeatedly told RTH that "no final decisions have been made on technology," holding open the possibility that Metrolinx might try to fund a cheaper-to-build bus rapid transit (BRT) system rather than LRT.
However, the research on transit investments - including the Metrolinx benefits case analysis on Hamilton's rapid transit plan - overwhelmingly demonstrates that the net economic development benefit from LRT is far bigger than for BRT.
Given Minister Murray's claim that Metrolinx will prioritize projects based on economic uplift potential, that augurs well for LRT.
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