Downtown Mississauga light rail transit loop a good idea, but who’ll pay for it?


Published February 15, 2023 at 2:51 pm

Hazel McCallion Line will not open on time in 2024

Mississauga municipal politicians who’ve been pushing the provincial government to have a downtown core light rail transit (LRT) loop once again be part of the $1.4-billion Hazel McCallion Line have hit a bump in the road.

The Downtown Loop, as City of Mississauga officials call it, was initially part of the huge Hurontario LRT plan before being cut from the project by the Province three years ago.

Plans for the loop, which would conveniently connect Hazel McCallion Line trains with the many condos and tens of thousands of residents in Mississauga’s downtown core, were dropped in order to save money.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie, council and other City officials have been fighting for reinstatement of the loop ever since. In fact, Crombie has often identified it as among the very top priorities for the City.

While the mayor has on several occasions in the last year or so indicated that Ontario Premier Doug Ford seems agreeable to reinstating the loop, he has consistently suggested to her that the City pursue developers to pay for it.

Crombie raised the matter once again at last week’s meeting of general committee during a discussion about revenue tools that could potentially be used to pay for new infrastructure in Mississauga.

The mayor told councillors and City staff that she has had many discussions with Ford about the downtown loop.

“And the premier is of the opinion that there are still mechanisms that we could employ to encourage the development community, which are building multiple towers in the downtown, to contribute to the building of that as well as the City,” Crombie reported, adding she doesn’t believe that route is appropriate given downtown core developers already have their buildings “being built and up for sale.

“So, how do we go back to them retroactively and say ‘Well, actually now we need you to contribute to this downtown loop.’ How does that work?”

Shari Lichterman, Mississauga’s acting city manager and CAO, said staff has studied the notion of whether or not the City can newly charge beneficiaries of new infrastructure such as the LRT loop.

“The challenge is…a lot of the development is already in place, underway. Certainly, there’s a lot more future development coming on, but how do you balance charging new development with existing (development),” wondered Lichterman. “And in addition to that, our greatest tool for funding infrastructure…is development charges, and of course we’ve taken a step backwards on that one (due to the Province’s controversial Bill 23).”

“A big step backwards,” Crombie noted, adding municipalities need the provincial government’s approval in many cases to activate any revenue tools.

“Even in the best-case scenario, we raise tens of millions (of dollars), the loop is in the hundreds of millions…so we’d need approvals that we don’t have for tools that should’ve been applied years ago, not today, so I don’t quite understand how they think there are tools we could employ that would assist.”

Ward 5 Councillor Carolyn Parrish, meanwhile, wondered if the City can look to Oxford Properties, which owns Square One Shopping Centre, among other properties.

“…a loop would benefit them immensely, bringing shoppers in, so I’m not opposed to looking at that, either,” she said.

The 18-kilometre Hurontario LRT route, last year named the Hazel McCallion Line, will take passengers from Port Credit GO station in south Mississauga to Brampton via Hurontario St. when it opens in fall 2024.

Hurontario LRT map

Mississauga officials say the Downtown Loop, if reinstated by Ford, would not have to be built on the same timeline as the main project and could easily be added afterwards.

During a media budget information session last month, former city manager Paul Mitcham said that Mississauga officials are looking to extend the loop farther west than initially planned in order to serve thousands more residents living in the high-rise condos.

Meanwhile, a key part of the Hazel McCallion Line has recently taken more visible shape in the city’s downtown core.

The elevated guideway that will eventually connect the 18-kilometre LRT route to the City Centre stop near Square One is making significant progress, project leaders said in a recent update on social media.

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