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Hamilton pressing forward on light rail transit

Hamilton's goal is to submit a proposal to Metrolinx for inclusion in its capital budget in the fall

By Dana Brown

Published in the Hamilton Spectator on July 28, 2008.

The city is moving quickly on plans for light rail transit in a bid to ensure it is able to grasp external funding dollars in the fall.

Council approved moving into the next stage of the Rapid Transit Feasibility Study last month, with a focus on light rail transit.

A public consultation session, the last in this phase of the study, is being held this morning at Jackson Square.

The goal is to ensure Hamilton can submit a proposal to regional transportation body Metrolinx for inclusion in its capital budget in the fall.

Jill Stephen, manager of strategic planning for the city, said this is the first in a five-year rolling budget from Metrolinx.

"We want to make sure that we're in there," she said.

"We may not be able to construct anything until the fifth year of the budget, but we want to make sure that Hamilton is definitely included in that."

The study is focusing on two lines for light rail transit, with one route potentially running along James and Upper James streets from the airport to the waterfront. The other could run along Main/King streets from University Plaza to Eastgate Square.

The option of using the Claremont Access instead of James Mountain Road for the first route is also being looked at.

Stephen said that's because, in part, the 10.7 per cent grade on the Mountain road is too steep for light rail. A tunnel would be needed through the escarpment to run the route there.

The Claremont Access has a grade of 6 per cent, which is within the manageable range for light rail.

Stephen said the city is also keeping its mind open to other route possibilities.

Two public open houses about rapid transit have already been held and more are expected as the process moves forward.

Out of 1,500 responses from the open houses and a designated survey, only about 5 per cent of people are opposed to any form rapid transit (bus or rail), Stephen said.

This morning's public session is being held on the Jackson Square rooftop, beside the stage, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.