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Tories put brakes on Hamilton’s LRT dreams

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

Under a Progressive Conservative government Hamilton’s light-rail transit system would be scrapped and instead the Tories would build the Mid-Peninsula Highway from Fort Erie to at least Highway 6, said leader Tim Hudak.

“A LRT is not at the top of the priority list,” Hudak said in an interview April 17, accompanied by Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale provincial Tory candidate Donna Skelly.

“That’s not simply my view. It’s what I hear in the area.”

Instead, Hudak wants the Mid-Peninsula Highwayconstructed across the south of Niagara to connect with the Hamilton Airport.

“From there link it up to the 401 towards Kitchener,Waterloo and Cambridge,” he said. “(It would be) a “trades corridor that is focused on jobs.

“You need to invest in your highways,” added Hudak. “You can’t get steel or auto parts on a bus of GO Train. If you want the LRT to spend a lot of money and tear up a lot of streets in Hamilton, you have two choices: the Liberals and NDP (or the Tories).”

Hamiltoncouncil has thrown its support behind a LRT system, over a less costly bus rapid transit system, but only if the entire price tag is paid for by the province. The council has also opposed any highway that cuts through Flamborough, a fear some rural residents believe is real if a Mid-Peninsula Highwayis built.

A recent study by the provincial Transportation Ministry rejected constructing a southern Niagara highway, and instead, recommended expanding the QEW through Stoney Creek and Niagara, and adding extra lanes to Highway 403.

While in Hamilton recently Transportation Minister Glen Murray called the idea of building a Mid-Peninsula “ridiculous.”

Hudak is opposed to expanding the QEW to accommodate more traffic arguing it will impact the tender fruit farms that line the QEW through western Niagara.

The Tories would also looked to boost GO Train service in the Hamilton area, a promise that Skelly says was promised  to city officials in the last provincial election in 2011, but has yet to be fulfilled.

Skelly called the idea of funding an $800 million LRT system “pie in the sky” a project residents in her area want nothing to do with.

“They don’t want it, they know they will never use it,” she said. “It will never come about. The money isn’t there.”

Skelly said the only reason Hamilton has been included in the Greater Toronto area for transit projects to become the GTHA is so the province can grab local taxpayers’ money.

“GTHA, it wasn’t an acronym until they needed somebody else to tap into (for money),” said Skelly.

Both Hudak and Skelly dismissed Premier Kathleen Wynne’s recent transit announcement that would create a regional transit system within a decade at a cost of $29 billion. There would be two dedicated funds. One would be $15 billion for public transit within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, while $14 billion would be for transportation infrastructure projects in the rest of the province. The Liberals would divert $1.3 billion in gas taxes, use green bonds, and other as yet unknown revenue tools to pay for the fund.

The Tories have proposed creating a $2 billion Ontario Transportation Trust that would be funded through cutting public sector workers, selling surplus land, such as the LCBO headquarters property in downtownToronto, and encourage pension funds to invest in government-owned businesses.

“It would be transparent (and) dollars would be locked in,” said Hudak.

The Ontario government occupies about 7.7 million square feet of office space in 100 buildings alone, and Hudak believes significant savings could be captured by selling off some of those properties.

 

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