Toronto council to ‘consider endorsing’ Ford’s transit plans so long as they won’t hold up city projects
|Toronto Star 17 Apr 2019 at 11:03|
Toronto council says it will “consider endorsing” the province’s new transit plans if it gets confirmation they won’t unduly hold up the city’s priority projects, setting up a potential showdown with the Ontario Progressive Conservatives in two months.
At a meeting on Wednesday, councillors overwhelmingly approved a motion to advise Queen’s Park the city’s will consider the endorsement subject to “confirmation” the plan won’t “result in an unreasonable delay” to lines council has already approved. Those include the relief line, Scarborough subway extension, Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack project, and LRTs on Eglinton and the Waterfront.
The city manager will undertake an assessment of the province’s plans and report back to council in June, the same month by which Premier Doug Ford’s government plans to introduce legislation to wrest control of transit expansion projects from the city.
Ford . At its heart is the Ontario Line, which would replace the city-led plan for a relief line subway to serve the downtown core. The province is also planning to build a three-stop Scarborough subway extension, instead of the city’s single-stop plan.
Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 10, Spadina-Fort York), who moved the motion about delays, said Torontonians “are sick and tired of politicians drawing a new transit map after every election.”
He displayed a series of maps on a screen in the council chamber that showed transit plans various politicians had unveiled over the past decade — including a subway proposal from the premier’s brother and former mayor Rob Ford, as well as Mayor John Tory’s original 22-stop SmartTrack proposal — none of which have been built.
Cressy predicted the province’s new proposal, which the premier presented without supporting technical studies, would meet the same fate.
“The province has no transit plan. They have a map,” he said.
“I anticipate that staff will report in June and outline that there will be delays, and I will be asking council to step away from the provincial process.”
He conceded it would be up to council to determine what constitutes an “unreasonable” delay.
The province has committed $11.2 billion to the plan, with the remaining $17.3 billion to be funded by municipalities and the federal government. Subject to the city assessment, council would consider reallocating federal transit funding to Ontario’s plan, with $660 million going to the Scarborough subway and $3.2 billion to the Ontario Line.
City staff and even provincial officials have already acknowledged parts of the province’s plan would take longer to build than the city’s projects. Switching to a three-stop Scarborough extension would add at least two years to the construction schedule, pushing its completion to 2029.
On the other hand, the province maintains it could complete the 15-kilometre Ontario Line by 2027, at least two years sooner than the 7.4-kilometre city-led relief line project. Ford’s government says it would accelerate construction of the line, which it estimates would cost $10.9 billion, by using lighter train technology and expediting utility relocations and regulatory approvals. Experts have cast doubt on the claims the line could be built so quickly .
Tory told reporters he was concerned about delays, but would wait for the city to deliver its June report before passing judgment.
He said it’s possible the province could make changes to its proposed projects “that don’t cause a delay, or some change in the order of those projects so you can get some things that are most important to us as fast as possible.”
A report that went to council Tuesday included , including basic queries like how the government arrived at its cost and schedule projections, whether it will produce business cases for the new lines, and how much of the planning work the city has already done could be reused.
Tory said given the province is asking the city to replace plans it’s spent years advancing with a proposal “we heard about a week ago,” there “may be closer to 6,600 questions.”