Mayor: Infrastructure Commitment Supports Re-Urbanization

By Ryan McGreal
Published July 25, 2008

The federal government has announced $33 billion in new infrastructure capital, with $6.2 billion earmarked for Ontario. The province is expected to provide another $3.1 billion in matching funding.

In a telephone interview with Raise the Hammer, Mayor Fred Eisenberger explained in more detail what the new funding means for Hamilton.

He noted that the national municipal infrastructure deficit is some $124 billion, and added that the announcement is an important step toward closing that deficit. "Kudos to both levels of government for finally getting it done."

He explained that the deal is crucial for releasing the federal money, because it provides a framework for approving projects.

The major emphasis is on rehabilitating existing infrastructure. Eisenberger pointed out that this supports "re-urbanization principles." If we want intensification and higher density development, the Mayor noted, "our infrastructure has to be able to deal with it."

Hamilton's "wish list" includes our water and wastewater system, bridges and road rehabilitation, public transit, a downtown transit terminal at MacNab, the Central Library, Gore Park pedestrianization, and more waterfront redevelopment.

LRT Through Metrolinx

One of the projects announced today is funding for Waterloo Region's Light Rail Transit (LRT) system.

I asked if some of the money could go to Hamilton's proposed LRT system as well. Eisenberger explained that federal capital for rapid transit Hamilton would more likely flow through Metrolinx, the provincial organization coordinating rapid transit investments through the GTA+Hamilton.

Waterloo falls outside the scope of the Metrolinx framework.

However, Eisenberger pointed out that the Waterloo LRT funding commitment indicates that the federal government is "listening to the need for rapid transit" and "amenable to loading out their share of funding."

This is a welcome commitment, as the federal government had previously hinted that it leaned more toward bus rapid transit than LRT.

As for Hamilton's rapid transit plan, the feds won't make a funding commitment to Metrolinx until after the Regional Transportation Plan is released around the end of 2008.

Another critical factor for a successful LRT system is a stable flow of operating funds. As Eisenberger put it, "The province can't just drop light rail on our laps without helping us to operate it."

However, the Mayor seemed confident that the federal and provincial governments understand this and may be prepared to make some arrangements for operating funds.

He said, "Some other funding mechanisms must be put in place." He listed HOV lanes, road tolls, and a special sales tax as possible sources of revenue.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By jason (registered) | Posted July 26, 2008 at 09:14:47

good interview, and great news.

It's so refreshing to have a mayor talk about re-urbanization and offer a wishlist supporting those principles. It's almost shocking to the system as a Hamiltonian to not hear him talk about multi-million dollar infrastructre projects out in the middle of nowhere. Good job by everyone involved. Let's get the new transit terminal built and LRT into our great city.

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By lorne (registered) - website | Posted July 26, 2008 at 14:42:13

Let's just hope that the infrastructure grants are used for the things that most need it: bridges, roads, etc. I recall the last time such funding was made available, under the Chretien Liberals, all sorts of funds were diverted to things that hardly qualify as infrastructure, e.g. renovations to Ivor Wynne Stadium, expansion of the facilities of the Dundas Little Theatre, etc.

While I am encouraged by how the Mayor seems to be defining the term, I can't agree, even though I am a big support of libraries, that the Central Library qualifies as infrastructure.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted July 28, 2008 at 07:21:59

Great news. But I still don't understand wasting money on a macnab terminal when we have an amazing transit terminal already built, restored, and underused - hunter...

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