After 12 hours of deliberation, the future of Light Rail Transit in Hamilton is still in question.
Council chambers were packed at the start of the meeting, with representatives from a variety of community groups. The McMaster Students Union was represented, with Blake Oliver, vice-president (Education) in attendance for part of the meeting.
The LRT debate has been raging for years and city council has voted numerous times to approve the project. The provincial government has committed $1 billion in capital funding to build LRT that would include a main route from McMaster University to the Queenston traffic circle.
This lengthy meeting stems from a motion that was brought forth in April to “reaffirm” city council’s interest in LRT. That motion was withdrawn at the Oct. 25 meeting after a legal opinion highlighted that they would need a two-thirds majority to change the LRT stance of city council. The lawyer, George Rust D-Eye, also pointed out the potential liabilities of the city if they were to oppose LRT after years of support.
City council will also ask the provincial government to look at expanding the A-Line of the proposed LRT system, which runs up to the Mountain. An official from Metrolinx, the government agency responsible for expanding public transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area, said it is too early for the organization to make a statement on that request.
There are more obstacles to come for LRT, though this meeting could be interpreted as a win for the pro-LRT crowd. It is unlikely that city council could achieve a two-thirds majority to change course on LRT and there are significant legal questions to answer if they actually did decide to abandon the public transit project.
LRT will continue to be a point of contention for the Hamilton community and the issue will come back to city council when the environmental assessment is completed in early spring 2017.