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.
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.
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