Auditor general says BRT deserved more study in Hamilton

"That argument has been a part of the dialogue around this project since the very beginning," said Eisenberger, who recently won re-election with more than 50 per cent of the vote over anti-LRT candidate Vito Sgro.

Eisenberger – who travelled to Toronto shortly after his 2014 election win to pitch LRT to the premier – said he wasn't familiar with the business case updates cited in the auditor-general's report.

But he emphasized the city pursued LRT based on "a wide array of benefits" including more reliable transit, planned intensification and renewal along the corridor, improved infrastructure and employment. "The province didn't approve the project simply based on cost," he said.

Lysyk's report says the 2014 Metrolinx updated analysis suggested LRT would be Hamilton's best bet in a "higher-intensity" land use scenario, while BRT would win in a "medium" intensification context.

Hamilton has already created special "transit-oriented development" zoning along the proposed Main-King-Queenston LRT corridor to encourage intensification, said city LRT project co-ordinator Kris Jacobson.

That focus on adding new and taller buildings on designated corridors or at particular nodes dates back a decade under provincial and city growth plans, he noted. "The LRT corridor continues to be one of the main corridors identified and supported by the city for future growth and intensification," he said.

Lysyk's report also criticizes Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario for perceived failures in its preferred Alternative Financing and Procurement (AFP) model of project delivery. The model is meant to transfer responsibility for delays and cost overruns to the private design-builder of the LRT.

But the auditor-general pointed out Metrolinx still paid more than $200 million to the consortium building the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line to settle a dispute and ensure on-time delivery of the project. Lysyk also investigated the high-profile problems with train car delivery from Bombardier that have plagued LRT projects in Toronto and Waterloo.

Metrolinx said it is incorporating those "lessons learned" into planned project procurement rules for Hamilton's LRT.

If the new PC provincial government allows Hamilton's project to go ahead, major construction on the 14-kilometre LRT from McMaster University to Eastgate Square is supposed to start by 2020.

mvandongen@thespec.com

905-526-3241 | @Mattatthespec

mvandongen@thespec.com

905-526-3241 | @Mattatthespec

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