Wednesday, May 03, 2017

For Hamilton LRT, an extension

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Hamilton, Ontario’s approved LRT line will be extended an additional 1.9 miles to its original eastern terminal, Eastgate Square, an east Hamilton shopping mall. The crosstown line will now total 8.7 miles.

Ontario Minister of Transportation Steve Del Duca announced on April 26 that the province would provide funding to extend the Hamilton Street Railway LRT tracks beyond the existing approved terminal of Queenston Circle. This location was regarded as a poor one locally, as it was in a low-density residential neighborhood some distance from major cross streets.

The provincial announcement was seen in some quarters as a move to bolster support with Hamiliton’s City Council for the project, which was facing a crucial vote for an environmental review. Some Councillors were firmly opposed to the project, while others were wavering. However, the vote on the review was approved, although not unanimously, partly due to the provincial intervention. Mayor Fred Eisenberger has been a very strong supporter of the line from the outset, and was instrumental in obtaining funding.

Hamilton’s LRT project is being fully funded, to a limit of $1 billion, by Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency. This grant was announced in May 2015, but with the condition that the line be truncated at Queenston Circle, and the funds thus released be used for a 1.2-mile spur line to the new West Harbour GO Transit station on James street North, a major thoroughfare.

However, in February 2017, Metrolinx, apparently after belatedly taking potential ridership surveys, announced that insufficient patronage existed to justify the James Street connection in the foreseeable future. Instead, the agency offered to fund an express bus service from the GO station, south on James Street to the city’s airport, a minimally patronized facility. This proposal was greeted, understandably, with scant enthusiasm by Council and the public, and pressure grew from both quarters for reinstatement of the Eastgate LRT link. The express bus proposal has been quietly shelved.

Eastgate Square Mall is a popular shopping center located at the intersection of Queenston Road and Centennial Parkway (Highways 8 and 20, respectively), and about a half-mile from the QEW (Queen Elizabeth Way), the Toronto-Buffalo highway. It has long been a major transfer point for city buses, with a terminus in the mall parking lot. The mall and nearby strip plazas could potentially accommodate higher density development now that the LRT is on its way, boosting municipal tax revenues.

The Eastgate extension’s cost will not be known until the contractor’s bid is selected in about a year’s time. However, both the city and Metrolinx are confident that the existing budget will accommodate the work. There will be three stations: Parkdale Avenue, Nash Road and Eastgate Square.

The entire LRT line will be chiefly in center of the road private right-of-way. An existing road bridge will likely be used across the Red Hill Valley Expressway, with some modifications. An LRT-only bridge is to be constructed across Provincial Highway 403, in the west end, and a LRT-only underpass beneath a CPR industrial spur.

LRT Construction will commence in late 2018, with opening by 2025.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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