Premier Doug Ford’s government on Wednesday unveiled its nearly $30-billion Toronto-area transit expansion plan — including a new 15-kilometre “Ontario Line” stretching from Ontario Place to the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto.
Meant to replace the proposed downtown relief subway line to ease what Ford calls “dangerous congestion,” the proposed, $11-billion “game changer” will be double the length of what the City of Toronto envisioned.
“We are making the biggest and largest investment in new subways in Canadian history,” Ford told reporters.
Ford and Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek made the announcement at GO Transit’s Willowbrook maintenance facility in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke. No representatives from the city or federal governments were present at the news conference.
With the province changing course on several projects already underway, critics have raised concerns about potential cost overruns, construction delays and wasting some of the $224 million of public money already spent on the planning and design of transit infrastructure in Toronto.
“This isn’t costing, this is a bunch of scribbles on a map,” Liberal MP Adam Vaughan, who represents a downtown Toronto riding, told reporters on Parliament Hill.
Meanwhile Toronto city Coun. Josh Matlow of Toronto-St. Paul’s said the announcement amounted to “plans that don’t make sense with money that doesn’t exist yet.”
4 priority projects
The Ontario Line, provincial officials say, will be a “free-standing artery” independent of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).
“The TTC are great operators. They’re just not experts in building,” Yurek said. “We can do things the city can’t. We can prioritize, make decisions, and perhaps most importantly, finance these projects.”
The proposed light rail line will run mostly underground with the potential for an elevated track along certain portions of the route, like crossing the Don River. The project is slated to be finished by 2029, or two years earlier, and will include the possibility of driverless trains.
Matlow called the proposal “a mixture of medicine and snake oil.
“It doesn’t fully make sense to extend it down to Ontario Place, I don’t know why he’s doing that … Why spend the money there instead of maybe an LRT on the waterfront?”
And it’s just one of the Ford government’s four priority projects, along with extending the Yonge subway line north to Richmond Hill, expanding the Eglinton West LRT west, and building a three-stop Scarborough subway extension.
The province wants to own the lines but leave the city and TTC to operate the subway system.
These four projects alone could carry a price tag of $26.7 billion. Here’s the cost breakdown: