Friday, May 21, 2010

get the light right

Public input to 'inform' city's plan for light rail

, The Hamilton Spectator
(May 21, 2010) 

Hamiltonians will be asked for their input on a proposed light rail project throughout the next 12 months of design and engineering work.
The city will establish a community advisory committee to work with a consultant leading the study, and there will be a number of public information sessions and other communication efforts.
"We will not be waiting until the end to say, 'Here's our plan, what do you think?' " said Jill Stephen, the city's director of strategic planning and rapid transit.
"We'll be getting input throughout and that will inform the plan."
The city announced yesterday it has hired Steer Davies Gleave, an international transportation consulting firm, to do the planning for the estimated $784-million light rail line from Eastgate Square to McMaster University.
It's expected the study will take a year and it kicks off a crucial period in Hamilton's quest to land light rail.
The report will look at everything from station location to the technology to run the trains. It will analyze how traffic will flow throughout the area and how property owners will be affected.
The study will also include a feasibility study into an LRT route from the waterfront to the airport.
Steer Davies Gleave has spearheaded transportation projects around the world and was the lead architect of the Metrolinx benefits case analysis for Hamilton.
The city is the only municipality so far to get a grant from the province for its transit planning study. Local officials point to that $3 million as proof that Hamilton is well on its way to LRT.
Rail spirits were further boosted this week when Metrolinx CEO Rob Prichard told the Hamilton Economic Summit that he anticipates the city's transit project will be the next major announcement.
But the agency has made no commitment to LRT and the province has not promised any funding.
There is clearly a timeline at play. Everyone is talking about the trains running by the Pan Am Games in 2015 and the project is a big component of the city's controversial bid to build a west harbour stadium.
Kathy Drewitt, executive director of the Downtown Hamilton BIA, says business owners are anxious to get answers about how light rail will affect them during and after construction.
The city's proposal includes converting Main and King to two-way traffic and the possibility of removing street parking in the core, restricting left turns to signalled intersections and potentially closing a section of King to vehicles.
"Business owners want to know where the stops will be, how they'll get deliveries into their buildings, how their customers will get to them ... we're hoping the consultant will answer those questions."

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