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Metrolinx plan will 'transform' Hamilton

Metrolinx plan will 'transform' Hamilton

During a recent four-day tour of Charlotte, Portland and Calgary, Mayor Eisenberger saw economic development along the cities' light rail transit corridors, blossoming downtown economies, and environmental savings.

By Kevin Werner

Published in the Glanbrook Gazette on September 26, 2008.

Charlotte, North Carolina has one, and so does Portland, Oregon, and even Calgary, Alberta.

Now Mayor Fred Eisenberger says Hamilton needs a light rail transit system.

"It is transformational," said Mr. Eisenberger during his State of the City breakfast address at the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce Sept. 23. "It is a staple of a modern city. It's something our city needs and deserves."

Metrolinx, which announced its transportation plan this week for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas, is proposing $50 billion in new projects over 25 years. Part of those new transit projects will be Hamilton's LRT system which will criss cross the city from Dundas to Centennial Parkway, and the waterfront to the airport.

The draft plan also recommended full and electrified express Go service from Hamilton to Oshawa within 15 years.

Metrolinx's draft plan will be considered by its board Sept. 26. It will then launch open houses, and public meetings across the area in October to gauge public sentiment. A final plan will be released later this year.

Mr. Eisenberger, a Metrolinx board member, is expecting any funding from Metrolinx will be provided in stages, and will take years to receive.

"Hamilton will be well served by the announcement," he said. "Rapid transit is our future."

During a recent four-day tour of Charlotte, Portland and Calgary, Mr. Eisenberger saw economic development along the cities' light rail transit corridors, blossoming downtown economies, and environmental savings.

"They have created that transformation," he said. "What I felt was a real sense of optimism, ownership, and pride in the systems these cities built."

Under Metrolinx's draft plan, it is proposing 1,150 km of new rapid transit when fulling built out. About 75 per cent of residents will live within 2 km of rapid transit, compared to 42 per cent now.

Hamilton residents have been overwhelming supportive of a light rail transit system, despite its estimated $1 billion price tag. During public meetings, residents have consistently voiced their support for the project.

The Metrolinx funding is included in its five-year capital plan from 2009 to 2013. Construction on the light rail system could begin as early as 2011.

A LRT is a street-level rail system that uses electricity with overhead or buried wires for energy. Cities that have adopted the system include San Jose, Calif. Bordeaux, France and Bremen, Germany.

The city staff proposal for Hamilton is to construct the system along two rapid transit routes called an A-line, along James Street and Upper James Street from the hamilton Airport to the waterfront, and a B-line, along Main and King streets from McMaster University starting at University Plaza in Dundas to Eastgate Square on Centennial Parkway.

The proposal budget is estimated to be about $1.1 billion, but city staff are confident Metrolinx will foot the bulk of the bill.

Metrolinx chair Rob MacIsaac has been an enthusiastic supporter of Hamilton's progressive light rail transit plans, and has been encouraged to provide the funding to highlight the city's aggressive ideas.