A ‘betrayal’ of the City of Hamilton — Ontario pulls out of LRT

News Dec 17, 2019 The Hamilton Spectator

Doug Ford's Tory government abruptly cancelled Hamilton's LRT project Monday blaming billions of dollars in budget overruns — then teased $1 billion in transportation makeup cash, instead.

Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney gave up on a public announcement of the bombshell news after a crowd of residents and council members — including Mayor Fred Eisenberger — crashed a downtown Hamilton press briefing.

TOPIC: Hamilton LRT

A visibly upset Eisenberger then took over proceedings and told the crowd the Tory government had killed the long-planned project in a "betrayal of the City of Hamilton."

The mayor pointed out Premier Doug Ford publicly committed to the project — with the memorable quote "he wants an LRT, he's going to get an LRT" — just weeks after the pro-light rail mayor won a convincing municipal election victory in late 2018.

"That was a lie and they've been angling to cut this project ever since," Eisenberger said.

In a phone call Monday, Mulroney said she understood she was delivering "difficult news," but emphasized the province cannot forge ahead with a project it now believes will cost $5.5 billion over 30 years.

The minister also reiterated the province's $1-billion commitment to transportation in the city remains — but details are so far scarce on what the money could be spent on and who makes the decision.

Mulroney acknowledged the "anger and frustration" of residents who only nine months ago heard former Tory transportation minister Jeff Yurek announce the $1-billion LRT was "good to go forward" after a funding freeze described as a delay to study project viability.

RELATED:

Hamilton police called as LRT-cancelling news conference devolves into chaos

The Spectator's view: Province hasn't heard the end of Hamilton LRT

Graeme MacKay's editorial cartoon: It's not all bad news ...

Since then, total spending on the project by Metrolinx grew to $162 million, 60 buildings were bought and boarded up and 40-plus residents were forced to relocate for a rapid transit line that will now not go ahead.

Critics questioned why the savings-hunting government didn't pull the plug earlier if the budget had ballooned — rather than allow purchases and resident relocations to continue.

The Spectator obtained Ministry of Transportation briefing notes as far back as January that warned project costs had spiked and would exceed the $1-billion provincial commitment.

Hamilton Chamber of Commerce head Keanin Loomis said he gave the Tory government "so much credit" for publicly sticking with the Liberal-approved project back in March. "I don't know now if they knew at that point that they were going to do a bait-and-switch, but regardless, it is devastating for the economy in Hamilton," he said.

Developer and union vice-president Joe Mancinelli said the project meant "thousands of jobs" to local construction workers and spurred LIUNA to start building two different towers along the route. "These are decisions that were (based) on a commitment that was made by the provincial government," he said.

Mulroney said the incoming PC government was indeed concerned about the LRT budget from the get-go in 2018, but opted to get an independent cost estimate "to see if we could (still) deliver the project."

Provincial officials forwarded to journalists a summarized page of "expert third-party" cost estimates that suggest the "total costs of the LRT" — including construction, financing and 30 years of operations and maintenance — had ballooned to $5.5 billion.

Provincial LRT Budget Cost Estimate by The Hamilton Spectator on Scribd

(They also suggested the previous Liberal government had estimated the total building and 30-year operations cost at $3 billion, a number never made public in the past.)

The third-party estimate includes a construction and capital cost alone of almost $3 billion, although a specific breakdown of that estimate was not made available.

It also suggested the city would also be on the hook for close to $1 billion in operating costs over the life of the 30-year private operation contract. Again, no breakdown was provided.

"The province was not prepared to download those costs to the city," said Mulroney.

But the mayor questioned the accuracy of the cost estimates, noting a larger project in Mississauga is going ahead for under $1.5 billion in publicly announced capital costs.

(Provincial officials said Monday they would not release a detailed cost breakdown of that Hurontario LRT project for comparison purposes.)

Eisenberger added the city was not given the option of approaching the federal government for top-up funding, a default cost overrun option included in the city's agreement with Metrolinx.

Other provincial politicians openly scoffed at Ontario's cost estimates.

Provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the Tory government "likes to make up numbers to justify their cuts." She noted the "real numbers" were just a few months away from arriving in the form of competitive bids from three design-build consortiums next March.

Former Liberal transportation minister Steven Del Duca, who is now running to be provincial Liberal leader, argued in a statement Ford has been "searching for a way to kill the Hamilton LRT" since he was elected.

Mulroney, by contrast accused Del Duca and the former Liberal government "misled the people of Hamilton" by claiming the project could ever come in under budget.

Eisenberger said Monday that council will have to meet and discuss what to do next after the shocking provincial announcement that's been in planning for 11 years, but added he is hoping the project money will be spent on some form of transit.

Mulroney said a special "task force" will be set up to make recommendations on potential alternative transportation projects — as well as what to do with 60 empty buildings now owned by Metrolinx.

But she would not say Monday who will be on the task force or what options might be considered for the cash. The task force is supposed to report to her with options by the end of February.

 

mvandongen@thespec.com

905-526-3241 | @Mattatthespec

—With files from Natalie Paddon and Robert Benzie, Toronto Star.

A ‘betrayal’ of the City of Hamilton — Ontario pulls out of LRT

Provincial Transportation Minister announces light rail transit project is way over its budget and is cancelling the project

News Dec 17, 2019 The Hamilton Spectator

Doug Ford's Tory government abruptly cancelled Hamilton's LRT project Monday blaming billions of dollars in budget overruns — then teased $1 billion in transportation makeup cash, instead.

Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney gave up on a public announcement of the bombshell news after a crowd of residents and council members — including Mayor Fred Eisenberger — crashed a downtown Hamilton press briefing.

TOPIC: Hamilton LRT

A visibly upset Eisenberger then took over proceedings and told the crowd the Tory government had killed the long-planned project in a "betrayal of the City of Hamilton."

The mayor pointed out Premier Doug Ford publicly committed to the project — with the memorable quote "he wants an LRT, he's going to get an LRT" — just weeks after the pro-light rail mayor won a convincing municipal election victory in late 2018.

"That was a lie and they've been angling to cut this project ever since," Eisenberger said.

In a phone call Monday, Mulroney said she understood she was delivering "difficult news," but emphasized the province cannot forge ahead with a project it now believes will cost $5.5 billion over 30 years.

The minister also reiterated the province's $1-billion commitment to transportation in the city remains — but details are so far scarce on what the money could be spent on and who makes the decision.

Mulroney acknowledged the "anger and frustration" of residents who only nine months ago heard former Tory transportation minister Jeff Yurek announce the $1-billion LRT was "good to go forward" after a funding freeze described as a delay to study project viability.

RELATED:

Hamilton police called as LRT-cancelling news conference devolves into chaos

The Spectator's view: Province hasn't heard the end of Hamilton LRT

Graeme MacKay's editorial cartoon: It's not all bad news ...

Since then, total spending on the project by Metrolinx grew to $162 million, 60 buildings were bought and boarded up and 40-plus residents were forced to relocate for a rapid transit line that will now not go ahead.

Critics questioned why the savings-hunting government didn't pull the plug earlier if the budget had ballooned — rather than allow purchases and resident relocations to continue.

The Spectator obtained Ministry of Transportation briefing notes as far back as January that warned project costs had spiked and would exceed the $1-billion provincial commitment.

Hamilton Chamber of Commerce head Keanin Loomis said he gave the Tory government "so much credit" for publicly sticking with the Liberal-approved project back in March. "I don't know now if they knew at that point that they were going to do a bait-and-switch, but regardless, it is devastating for the economy in Hamilton," he said.

Developer and union vice-president Joe Mancinelli said the project meant "thousands of jobs" to local construction workers and spurred LIUNA to start building two different towers along the route. "These are decisions that were (based) on a commitment that was made by the provincial government," he said.

Mulroney said the incoming PC government was indeed concerned about the LRT budget from the get-go in 2018, but opted to get an independent cost estimate "to see if we could (still) deliver the project."

Provincial officials forwarded to journalists a summarized page of "expert third-party" cost estimates that suggest the "total costs of the LRT" — including construction, financing and 30 years of operations and maintenance — had ballooned to $5.5 billion.

Provincial LRT Budget Cost Estimate by The Hamilton Spectator on Scribd

(They also suggested the previous Liberal government had estimated the total building and 30-year operations cost at $3 billion, a number never made public in the past.)

The third-party estimate includes a construction and capital cost alone of almost $3 billion, although a specific breakdown of that estimate was not made available.

It also suggested the city would also be on the hook for close to $1 billion in operating costs over the life of the 30-year private operation contract. Again, no breakdown was provided.

"The province was not prepared to download those costs to the city," said Mulroney.

But the mayor questioned the accuracy of the cost estimates, noting a larger project in Mississauga is going ahead for under $1.5 billion in publicly announced capital costs.

(Provincial officials said Monday they would not release a detailed cost breakdown of that Hurontario LRT project for comparison purposes.)

Eisenberger added the city was not given the option of approaching the federal government for top-up funding, a default cost overrun option included in the city's agreement with Metrolinx.

Other provincial politicians openly scoffed at Ontario's cost estimates.

Provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the Tory government "likes to make up numbers to justify their cuts." She noted the "real numbers" were just a few months away from arriving in the form of competitive bids from three design-build consortiums next March.

Former Liberal transportation minister Steven Del Duca, who is now running to be provincial Liberal leader, argued in a statement Ford has been "searching for a way to kill the Hamilton LRT" since he was elected.

Mulroney, by contrast accused Del Duca and the former Liberal government "misled the people of Hamilton" by claiming the project could ever come in under budget.

Eisenberger said Monday that council will have to meet and discuss what to do next after the shocking provincial announcement that's been in planning for 11 years, but added he is hoping the project money will be spent on some form of transit.

Mulroney said a special "task force" will be set up to make recommendations on potential alternative transportation projects — as well as what to do with 60 empty buildings now owned by Metrolinx.

But she would not say Monday who will be on the task force or what options might be considered for the cash. The task force is supposed to report to her with options by the end of February.

 

mvandongen@thespec.com

905-526-3241 | @Mattatthespec

—With files from Natalie Paddon and Robert Benzie, Toronto Star.

A ‘betrayal’ of the City of Hamilton — Ontario pulls out of LRT

Provincial Transportation Minister announces light rail transit project is way over its budget and is cancelling the project

News Dec 17, 2019 The Hamilton Spectator

Doug Ford's Tory government abruptly cancelled Hamilton's LRT project Monday blaming billions of dollars in budget overruns — then teased $1 billion in transportation makeup cash, instead.

Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney gave up on a public announcement of the bombshell news after a crowd of residents and council members — including Mayor Fred Eisenberger — crashed a downtown Hamilton press briefing.

TOPIC: Hamilton LRT

A visibly upset Eisenberger then took over proceedings and told the crowd the Tory government had killed the long-planned project in a "betrayal of the City of Hamilton."

The mayor pointed out Premier Doug Ford publicly committed to the project — with the memorable quote "he wants an LRT, he's going to get an LRT" — just weeks after the pro-light rail mayor won a convincing municipal election victory in late 2018.

"That was a lie and they've been angling to cut this project ever since," Eisenberger said.

In a phone call Monday, Mulroney said she understood she was delivering "difficult news," but emphasized the province cannot forge ahead with a project it now believes will cost $5.5 billion over 30 years.

The minister also reiterated the province's $1-billion commitment to transportation in the city remains — but details are so far scarce on what the money could be spent on and who makes the decision.

Mulroney acknowledged the "anger and frustration" of residents who only nine months ago heard former Tory transportation minister Jeff Yurek announce the $1-billion LRT was "good to go forward" after a funding freeze described as a delay to study project viability.

RELATED:

Hamilton police called as LRT-cancelling news conference devolves into chaos

The Spectator's view: Province hasn't heard the end of Hamilton LRT

Graeme MacKay's editorial cartoon: It's not all bad news ...

Since then, total spending on the project by Metrolinx grew to $162 million, 60 buildings were bought and boarded up and 40-plus residents were forced to relocate for a rapid transit line that will now not go ahead.

Critics questioned why the savings-hunting government didn't pull the plug earlier if the budget had ballooned — rather than allow purchases and resident relocations to continue.

The Spectator obtained Ministry of Transportation briefing notes as far back as January that warned project costs had spiked and would exceed the $1-billion provincial commitment.

Hamilton Chamber of Commerce head Keanin Loomis said he gave the Tory government "so much credit" for publicly sticking with the Liberal-approved project back in March. "I don't know now if they knew at that point that they were going to do a bait-and-switch, but regardless, it is devastating for the economy in Hamilton," he said.

Developer and union vice-president Joe Mancinelli said the project meant "thousands of jobs" to local construction workers and spurred LIUNA to start building two different towers along the route. "These are decisions that were (based) on a commitment that was made by the provincial government," he said.

Mulroney said the incoming PC government was indeed concerned about the LRT budget from the get-go in 2018, but opted to get an independent cost estimate "to see if we could (still) deliver the project."

Provincial officials forwarded to journalists a summarized page of "expert third-party" cost estimates that suggest the "total costs of the LRT" — including construction, financing and 30 years of operations and maintenance — had ballooned to $5.5 billion.

Provincial LRT Budget Cost Estimate by The Hamilton Spectator on Scribd

(They also suggested the previous Liberal government had estimated the total building and 30-year operations cost at $3 billion, a number never made public in the past.)

The third-party estimate includes a construction and capital cost alone of almost $3 billion, although a specific breakdown of that estimate was not made available.

It also suggested the city would also be on the hook for close to $1 billion in operating costs over the life of the 30-year private operation contract. Again, no breakdown was provided.

"The province was not prepared to download those costs to the city," said Mulroney.

But the mayor questioned the accuracy of the cost estimates, noting a larger project in Mississauga is going ahead for under $1.5 billion in publicly announced capital costs.

(Provincial officials said Monday they would not release a detailed cost breakdown of that Hurontario LRT project for comparison purposes.)

Eisenberger added the city was not given the option of approaching the federal government for top-up funding, a default cost overrun option included in the city's agreement with Metrolinx.

Other provincial politicians openly scoffed at Ontario's cost estimates.

Provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the Tory government "likes to make up numbers to justify their cuts." She noted the "real numbers" were just a few months away from arriving in the form of competitive bids from three design-build consortiums next March.

Former Liberal transportation minister Steven Del Duca, who is now running to be provincial Liberal leader, argued in a statement Ford has been "searching for a way to kill the Hamilton LRT" since he was elected.

Mulroney, by contrast accused Del Duca and the former Liberal government "misled the people of Hamilton" by claiming the project could ever come in under budget.

Eisenberger said Monday that council will have to meet and discuss what to do next after the shocking provincial announcement that's been in planning for 11 years, but added he is hoping the project money will be spent on some form of transit.

Mulroney said a special "task force" will be set up to make recommendations on potential alternative transportation projects — as well as what to do with 60 empty buildings now owned by Metrolinx.

But she would not say Monday who will be on the task force or what options might be considered for the cash. The task force is supposed to report to her with options by the end of February.

 

mvandongen@thespec.com

905-526-3241 | @Mattatthespec

—With files from Natalie Paddon and Robert Benzie, Toronto Star.