Clark: Pull the plug on Hamilton LRT

By Matthew Van Dongen / Hamilton Spectator

Mayoral candidate Brad Clark is officially calling on Hamilton to pull the plug on a contentious bid for an $811-million LRT system in favour of negotiating cheaper bus rapid transit with the province.

The Stoney Creek councillor said he will oppose pursuing the 14-kilometre light-rail line from McMaster University to Eastgate even if the province provides 100 per cent capital funding for the project.

“We have to make decisions based on our needs,” he said at a Wednesday campaign announcement. “We want LRT. We don’t need LRT.”

With the announcement, Clark officially positions himself in clear opposition to council colleague and mayoral candidate Brian McHattie, who has championed the LRT plan as a city-building effort with dramatic potential to boost development and business along the east-west route.

Candidate and former mayor Fred Eisenberger, who pushed the LRT plan during his time in office, has called for a citizen panel on LRT and city transit options.

Clark argued the transit overhaul is still too expensive for local taxpayers once land expropriation, underground infrastructure improvements and other traffic changes are factored in.

He dismissed the economic uplift arguments found in past studies on LRT as uncertain and overly “rosy.”

Clark said the city should instead begin negotiating with the province over a bus rapid transit system for the same B-line that he estimates would cost closer to $350 million and require fewer local infrastructure and land costs.

At the same time, he urged expanding HSR bus service as recommended in the Rapid Ready report that supports LRT.

He said it would be too expensive, however, to simultaneously pursue bus rapid transit along both the east-west B-line and the north-south A line that runs from the water to the airport.

Mayoral candidate Crystal Lavigne has said she favours better bus service over LRT, while Ejaz Butt only supports the project with 100 per cent provincial funding. Michael Baldasaro and Nick Iamonico have both expressed support for the project.

mvandongen@thespec.com

905-526-3241 | @Mattatthespec

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