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Hamilton appeals for funding aid as bus barn price tag balloons

Dena Fehir
Hamilton appeals for funding aid as bus barn price tag balloons
ARCADIS - Key features of the Hamilton, Ont. bus barn facility are the space to store 200 buses indoors on opening day and an additional 100 buses in the future. A 30-bay maintenance space is also part of the project.

The bill for a Hamilton bus storage and maintenance facility on Wentworth Street North has increased by almost 60 per cent since its original design in 2020.

City council recently approved a motion from Mayor Andrea Horwath asking the provincial government to permit the city to use almost $6 million in unused pandemic transit grants towards the swelling bus barn tab, which, as of now, the city is expected to repay.

In 2021, the provincial and federal governments announced more than two thirds of the funding for what was forecast to be a $250 million facility at 281 Birch Ave.

Last year, the city awarded a $331 million construction contract to Pomerleau, a significant increase over the original budget, and now the city is estimating a total project cost of $386 million.

“The difference between contract award and total project costs is entirely due to responsible and rigid contingency planning. Contingencies may arise from required utility connections and constructing a facility of this size on a large industrial site where we may require mitigation measures or any unexpected conditions encountered during the construction process,” said Maureen Cosyn Heath, director of the City of Hamilton’s transit division.

“The contingencies provide for minor modifications and protection from cost inflation as the project progresses. This is a responsible and standard approach adopted across many jurisdictions when taking on an infrastructure project.

“The city is working closely with the contractor to ensure this vital piece of transit infrastructure is delivered to the benefit of all Hamiltonians, both in terms of value for money and the long-term sustainability and lifecycle of our Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) fleet.”

The purpose of the Hamilton bus storage facility, that will also make allowances for future electric transit vehicles, is, as stated in the city’s environmental project report, to accommodate a growing fleet. It is also in support of the city’s ongoing commitment to transit expansion as outlined in the 10-year local transit strategy.

The plan for the next decade provides the objective of a short term action plan to continue developing Hamilton’s transit network to 2025. It aims to address current deficiencies in the system, align services with updated service standards, enhance service hours annually and grow the bus fleet by 126 buses by 2025.

“The maintenance and storage facility is vital infrastructure for our growing HSR fleet and growing community, and our need to expand transit service. This is the responsible and sustainable way forward for HSR’s operations and a priority of this term of council that people can move around safely and effectively no matter how they travel,” said Cosyn Heath.

Key features of the facility are the space to store 200 buses indoors on opening day and an additional 100 buses in the future. A 30-bay maintenance space is also part of the project and will provide the necessary functions to inspect, repair and maintain the buses housed at the facility.

Currently, all of HSR’s transit services are operated from the Mountain Transit Centre operations, maintenance and storage facility on Upper James Street, which was constructed in 1983 and designed to accommodate 200 buses.

The current fleet has 308 buses and is projected to reach 350 buses by the end of 2025.

The second facility will relieve overcrowding at the current location and position transit for continued growth as Hamilton’s population continues to expand.

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