The City's LRT plan has $1 billion in provincial funding. Tell Council to take YES for an answer.

Rapid transit funding hits gridlock

City staff are scrambling to find out how much the municipality would be on the hook for to cover hoped-for rapid transit plans.

By Rachel De Lazzer

Published in the Hamilton Spectator on October 16, 2008.

City staff are scrambling to find out how much the municipality would be on the hook for to cover hoped-for rapid transit plans, if the province won't pay the full capital costs.

The city has been planning based on the premise that the capital for an estimated $1.1-billion worth of rapid transit lines -- one east-west, and one north-south -- would appear in the first five years of the Metrolinx budget.

But Metrolinx chair Rob MacIsaac made comments at a Spectator editorial board meeting on Tuesday suggesting that municipal city managers should put money aside to fund such projects. He also said Metrolinx would only fund a "bare bones" version of rapid transit lines, though Hamilton would likely appear in Year 4 or 5 of the agency's 2009-2013 budget.

Acting city manager Joe Rinaldo says city staff will try to get a better handle on what Metrolinx expects the city to contribute, if anything, at a meeting with the agency this week or early next week.

Rinaldo says if Metrolinx insists on a contribution, that could seriously affect council's decision to pursue rapid transit.

"If, for example, they ask for 50 per cent contribution, that's going to be problematic.

"If they are asking for much less than that, a token contribution, that might be a different ball game," said Rinaldo, referring to roughly 5 or 10 per cent.

Many councillors feel full coverage is the only workable possibility for cash-strapped Hamilton.

Rapid transit "can only be supported if all capital costs are covered by Metrolinx," said Ward 12 Councillor Lloyd Ferguson.