The City of Toronto has spent $224 million on transit projects over the last few years, and some of these projects may need to change due to the Ford government.
According to a new report by city staff, council approved a transit network plan in 2016 that identified projects that were required to address “capacity constraints on the existing subway network” and support the future growth of transit in Toronto.
And with the millions invested, several projects are ready to go to procurement and construction in 2019/2020, including the SmartTrack Stations Program, the Line 2 East Extension Project (also known as the Scarborough extension), the Exhibition Loop-Dufferin Loop Streetcar Connection (a priority segment of the Waterfront Transit Network Plan), and the Relief Line South.
The city also indicated that there are other key projects that are still in early planning phases continue to progress as well. These include the BloorYonge Capacity Improvement, Eglinton East and West Light Rail Transit extensions, and the Waterfront Transit Network Plan.
“This is a critical moment to build transit, and to leverage the investment to date in planning, design and engineering work to achieve that objective,” reads the report.
A total of $1.245 billion in federal funding has already been prioritized by city council with $0.660 billion to the Line 2 East Extension project in Scarborough (as approved in 2013); and $0.585 billion to the SmartTrack Stations Program (as approved in 2018).
The city says that the Scarborough extension is required to replace the Line 3 system that has been in service for over 30 years. As well, they say that the SmartTrack Stations Program “leverages the provincial investment in GO Expansion to address both growth and city-building objectives and also helps to provide additional transit choice to downtown.”
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The report is recommending city council confirm the Relief Line South and Bloor-Yonge Capacity Improvement as priority transit projects for the remaining $3.651 billion of the city’s federal funding allocation under the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund Phase 2 program.
“Today, Line 1 has an average daily weekday ridership of over 730,000 riders, making it one of the busiest lines in North America,” states the report. “The Relief Line South, Bloor-Yonge Capacity Improvement project and other related capital enhancements included in the Line 1 Capacity Requirements Program, are critical to reducing overcrowding and congestion on the Line 1 subway, and are necessary to ensure the system is able to safely accommodate future network demand as a result of both population growth and expansion.”
One of the main issues the report addresses is the city’s on-going discussion with Doug Ford’s government regarding their subway upload plans.
“The city is continuing to hold discussions with the province on the proposed realignment of transit responsibilities between the parties (i.e., “Upload”). The outcomes of this discussion will inform provincial and municipal cost sharing for subway infrastructure projects identified above for federal funding,” says the city report.
The report notes, under “potential risks”, that “changes in direction, be it in scope, technology, project delivery or funding create uncertainty and risk. These risks have the potential for delays in the delivery of much-needed public infrastructure and additional costs. The risks are not confined to financial consequences but also relate to reputational risks in public confidence in government.”
According to the city, the province communicated to them on March 22 and March 26, in letters from the Deputy Minister of Transportation, and the Special Advisor to Cabinet – Transit Upload, new plans for Toronto’s transit network, and “identified proposed changes to the Relief Line South and Line 2 East Extension – two projects ready to advance to procurement and construction in 2019/2020 based on current plans.”
They say the province requested additional information as well as due diligence that would need to be undertaken to assess the potential cost, schedule and other impacts associated with the new transit proposals.
And the City of Toronto says that both the province and/or Metrolinx “have shared limited information to date.”
“The city remains committed to building the transit network and entering into a constructive dialogue with the province,” concludes the report.
Staff will be reporting in the fall of 2019, prior to the 2020 budget process, on updated funding and financing strategies for projects, and say the outcome of ongoing discussions with the province will inform that strategy.
The city’s executive committee is meeting next week to consider the report.