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The Ontario government is covering the whole cost of a $1.6-billion light-rail line from Brampton, Ont., to Mississauga. (METROLINX)
The Ontario government is covering the whole cost of a $1.6-billion light-rail line from Brampton, Ont., to Mississauga. (METROLINX)

Brampton puts off decision on $386-million light rail project Add to ...

Brampton has put off a decision over whether to accept a $386-million light rail project offered by the province, opting to take an extra six weeks to try to find some sort of middle ground on the contentious issue.

The council vote came long after midnight, following an extended and at times rancourous special meeting. But when it came, the deferral motion passed nearly unanimously, with backing that included the pro-LRT mayor, Linda Jeffrey.

“I’m pleased that there’s a pause,” she told reporters after the meeting wrapped up. “I felt the more time you have to digest and understand the consequences of this decision, the outcome can be better, or you’re more satisfied with the outcome.”

The province has offered to pay for 5.6 kilometres of light rail in Brampton, a growing city to the northwest of Toronto, as part of a bigger project that also includes neighbouring Mississauga. But the portion of the proposal planned for Brampton has divided the community.

The ‘no’ side say they are motivated by concerns about losing downtown parking, hurting the heritage character of the old city and missing out on economic opportunities that could come from a different route.

“We’re going to lose our beautiful old downtown,” local resident Paul Willoughby, one of about 50 people to address the meeting, worried Wednesday evening.

The ‘yes’ side argues that an LRT running up Main Street could relieve congestion and spur a revitalization of what they characterize as a sagging downtown.

“I see the LRT as an opportunity … to build a downtown that is thriving,” argued local resident Nikita Brown. “Brampton can’t wait another 15 years for another opportunity to come along.”

And the project’s supporters take seriously the province’s warning that voting down this project would mean that the money would be re-allocated, and not reserved for Brampton.

Turning down the LRT would be a high-stakes move by Brampton, a fast-growing but largely car reliant community. It would mean running the risk of seeing Mississauga, to the south, get light rail while they are left waiting for transit.

Those opposed to this LRT route are convinced the province is bluffing and would be willing to fund different transit in the city. And they feel finding a transit solution that can earn the broadest possible council support would help their case.

“We have to be seen as a joint council rather than a divided council, especially if we’re going to pressure, you know, or try to pressure to get some more funding, either from the province or the feds,” said Councillor Jeff Bowman The Brampton LRT is one part of a 23.2-kilometre line proposed to run between the GO train stations in Port Credit and Brampton. Construction was to start within three years and open by 2022.

The project is part of a much bigger infrastructure promise by the provincial government, which has pledged to spend billions on infrastructure over the next decade.

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