Ford government reveals legislation it hopes will build transit faster

Feb 18 2020, 4:05 pm

The Province of Ontario announced today new legislation it hopes will help finish the ambitious litany of transit projects it currently has on the docket.

In Toronto on Tuesday, Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney introduced the Building Transit Faster Act, a piece of legislation the government hopes will help it finish the province’s four large-scale subway projects “on-time and on-budget,” according to a release.

The four projects include the Ontario Line, the Yonge North Subway Extension, the Scarborough Subway Extension, and the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension.

“In order to keep up with the tremendous growth in the region, we have to build modern, efficient rapid transit,” said Mulroney in the release. “It will not only generate years of employment, it will allow us to better connect a world-class city and develop transit-oriented communities.”

The purpose of the act is expediting the planning, design, and construction process that has delayed major projects in the past. According to the release, if passed — a nearly foregone conclusion in the current majority government — the new legislation would simplify the relocation of utilities in an efficient manner that doesn’t hurt businesses or increase costs to taxpayers. It will also ensure the “assembly of land” needed to construct stations, conduct tunnelling, and prepare sites, all in a manner that is fair to impacted property owners. It will also coordinate with nearby developments so that they do not slow or delay the transit projects.

Other priorities outlined include giving workers timely access to municipal services and rights-of-way on roads, while also allowing the province to inspect and remove physical barriers with appropriate notification to property owners.

“Not only will this proposed legislation get people riding the trains earlier, but it will ensure that the province is best positioned to attract new business and keep our best and brightest here in Ontario,” said Kinga Surma, Associate Minister of Transportation, in the release.

How the proposed legislation will be enacted into functional policy is not clear, but the jumble of new and scrapping of existing transit projects has left a bad taste in the mouth of some of the province’s residents.

The Ford government also announced in December 2019 that it was looking to cancel plans for Light Rail Transit in Hamilton. The LRT’s development was already underway, as a winning bid to design, build, and operate the transit had already been selected.

In Toronto, the Ontario Line, which replaced the already existing Relief Line South with a much more ambitious plan to extend transit from Toronto into North York, terminated at the Ontario Science Centre.

A business plan was released and information sessions were held in the city to educate the public on the new development, but those in attendance decried the lack of clarity and information available about the new project.

“For the sixth time in 10 years, we’ve had yet another transit map proposed. Every time a politician announces a new transit map, transit is delayed,” said Toronto city councillor Joe Cressy to Daily Hive in January about the new Ontario Line project.

“What we actually need is transit to just get built.”

With files from Ainsley Smith.