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Decisions, decisions...

The transformation of Hamilton's fortunes and image is on the line.

By Nicole MacIntyre

Published in the Hamilton Spectator on Sep. 5, 2009

Never in Hamilton's history has there been so much anticipation of great success and risk of gross disappointment.

In the coming months, Hamilton will learn the outcome of three major decisions that could transform the city, both on the ground and in the minds of people far beyond its borders.

If fate favours Hamilton, light rail trains will soar down its streets in a few years, ferrying international athletes past a renovated Copps Coliseum, home of the Coyotes.

Even if one or two of those dreams comes true, Mayor Fred Eisenberger believes it will have a profound impact on the city's future.

"Whenever have we had this level of excitement in Hamilton?" he asks. "These are big, huge opportunities."

[...]

Light rail transit

The decision: Will Metrolinx pick light rail transit or rapid buses for Hamilton and how much funding will they commit?

When: Expected in November.

Who decides: Metrolinx board, 15 members including Hamilton airport's Richard Koroscil and Mohawk president Rob MacIsaac.

Competition: Hamilton's proposal for rapid transit is just one of nine transit projects in the GTA looking for funding. There's a limited pot of money left as Metrolinx has already committed $9 billion of its $11.5 billion in startup funds.

What's at stake: Hamilton wants to build 16 kilometres of rapid transit from Eastgate Mall to McMaster University. The city would prefer light rail over rapid buses. The system would cost an estimated $650 million, but promises more than $1 billion in economic and community spinoffs.

Context: No one knows how much government funding will be offered to the city if Metrolinx approves light rail for Hamilton. City council will be forced to decide how much money local taxpayers should invest in the system at a time when money is already tight.

The proposal could position Hamilton, notorious for its car culture, as a transit leader. It would also change the city's one-way main streets.

Staff plan to recommend converting Main and King streets to two-way traffic in order to make way for rapid transit on King. Some businesses are already worried about the impact in tight corridors.

Quote: "It's seen as transformational, a way to bring about the change Hamiltonians are looking for." -- Scott Stewart, former head of public works.