The Hurontario Light Rail Project was one of the most contentious debates in Brampton’s history, and now it’s in the limelight yet again.
Councillor Gurpreet Dhillon put forward a motion today which received unanimous support to reverse council’s former motion to stop the LRT at Steeles Avenue, and move forward once again with bringing light rail into downtown Brampton.
Brampton LRT Background
Back in 2015 council made a highly controversial decision to stop the project at Steeles Avenue instead of at Brampton GO as originally intended based on the city’s transit planning.
The project was part of the Hurontario-Main LRT project which received $1.6 billion in funding from the province to build light rail from Port Credit to Brampton GO. The decision forfeited Brampton’s $400 million portion of the funding.
It was an issue that saw record amounts of engagement. Polls found that 70 per cent of residents were in favour of the project and hundreds of people delegated to city council, the majority in favour of the project into downtown, and some against. In the end, council voted to kill it.
LRT Route Discussions
Dhillon’s motion brings the Main Street route back onto the table, but with a bit of a twist — it would travel into downtown but continue down Main Street all the way up to Mayfield Road.
Brampton has had challenges in the past few years connecting transit to some of its outlying neighbourhoods. Currently, the Zum bus on Main Street terminates at Sandalwood Parkway, and this often proves challenging for riders living further north. A light rail line to Mayfield Road could provide a much-needed connection.
“We want to ensure that this is not a divisive course of action. However, I do think that this aligns well with the provincial regional network plan. It’s a comprehensive plan so we’re not just looking at Main Street LRT,” said Martin Medeiros.
After Brampton council voted down the Main Street route, they voted to have city staff look at previously studied and eliminated routes down McLaughlin Road and Kennedy Road at the cost of $4.4 million.
Dhillon’s motion would effectively halt these studies, but calls for a look at building bus rapid transit (BRT) similar in style to Zum, on the two routes instead of LRT. It also calls for the city to expedite its studies and plans for rapid transit on Queen Street into Vaughan.
Preparing Brampton for Infrastructure Projects
One of Brampton’s challenges garnering funding from the province and the federal governments in the past has been a lack of shovel-ready projects. Meaning projects that were ready to be executed should they get funding.
Councillors in favour of bringing back the LRT to Main Street pointed this out, and fact that the federal government will be looking to fund projects in 2019 in the leadup to the election.
“Right now we’ve got nothing, the only thing we’ve got right now to being shovel ready is the [Main Street] LRT],” said Rowena Santos, councillor, Ward 1-5.
The Main Street route has already been vigorously studied and has environmental assessments completed — two things Kennedy Road and McLaughlin Road don’t have.
The Final Vote Discussion
Mayor Patrick Brown wasn’t satisfied with the motion, saying that the province and the feds wouldn’t fund a project that they didn’t feel had community buy-in and that Brampton should be asking more. “We need to ask for our fair share, not a small segment of it,” he said.
One of the suggestions when council was debating the LRT back in 2015, was that Brampton should, in fact, try to stretch the route up to Mayfield in order to get a fairer share in transit funds, and that’s what Dhillon’s new motion is proposing.
Brown also suggested that Brampton consider the previously considered tunnel option. “We never looked at the cost around tunnelling, that might have taken away some of the divisions,” he said.
But the city already took a cursory look at the tunnel option back in February of 2016 and costs were estimated at upwards of $570 million.
Nonetheless, in what appeared to be bid to show a united front, and to foster collaboration, Dhillon amended his motion to allow for city staff to consider the tunnel route, despite having the six votes needed to pass the motion without the amendment.
The amended motion was passed with unanimous support from council and the final vote will happen in council next week.
This article was updated on December 9, 2018, for clarity and to make a note that a final vote happens next week.