By Ryan McGreal
Published October 31, 2008
Lost in the brouhaha and gnashing of teeth over the, er, concrete fiasco was the other important vote Council took last night.
Council voted unanimously to approve the city's light rail bid, prepared by public works staff after nearly a year of research and public consultation.
Yes, you read that correctly: council voted unanimously.
The city will now formally ask Metrolinx, the provincial regional transit body, to pay the capital costs for two light rail systems in Hamilton: the east-west B-Line from Eastgate to University Plaza along Main and/or King, and the north-south A-Line from the waterfront along James and Upper James to the airport.
The city hopes for construction on the B-Line to be included in the first five year rolling budget from Metrolinx. A class environmental assessment still has to be conducted, but city staff say that with the green light from Metrolinx, they could start building as early as 2011.
However, Metrolinx still needs to conduct a business needs analysis on Hamilton's proposal to see if the B-Line meets their criteria for light rail as opposed to bus rapid transit.
Metrolinx is still developing those criteria, but their analysis will look at the economic, social and environmental aspects of each option, as well as its potential to integrate regional transportation.
They also need to determine where the B-Line will fall in the order of priorities. Metrolinx has already identified the B-Line as one of the top fifteen priorities for the first fifteen year plan, but Hamilton wants to ensure that funding is included in the first five year budget.
140 people attended the open house and stakeholder workshop Metrolinx hosted in Hamilton on Thursday evening to explain the regional transportation plan and solicit public feedback.
The only other session that drew more people was a Toronto event attended by 145-150 people. Given that Toronto's population is five times as high as Hamilton's, the proportionate response is overwhelming.