A formal groundbreaking Monday marked construction of Toronto's Sheppard East light rail extension of roughly 8.4 miles along Sheppard Avenue from the Don Mills subway station.
Sheppard East LRT is being billed as the first piece of the C$6 billion, 15-year plan to add at least 76 miles of streetcar routes throughout Canada’s largest city. The C$1 billion Sheppard East project will replace the Scarborough East bus line, with funding coming from Ontario and the federal government, with the province covering roughly two-thirds of the cost.
"Today we start the renaissance of public transit in the city of Toronto, and from my perspective it's been far too long in coming," Mayor David said at the groundbreaking event. “It should have been done 30 years ago, but all of us can look back and say we did it today."
Adam Giambrone, chairman of the Toronto Transit Commission, said the city "learned a lot" from criticism of the line and other projects, and claimed support for the Sheppard LRT has grown. "People are concerned about construction as they are with road construction, but ... virtually everybody wants it to happen," Giambrone said. "The question they're asking is not why or if, but how fast can you get it into place?"
Giambrone, justifying LRT’s implementation, said that while the mode is more expensive to build, its operating efficiency far exceeds that of comparable bus service.
Added Ontario Transportation Minister Jim Bradley, "This project is critical to improving public transit, and it will have significant long-termbenefits to the surrounding communities.
Metrolinx, the regional transportation authority, will ownthe new light rail line but the Toronto Transit Commission will operate it. Theongoing political tension between Metrolinx and TTC extends to the rail gaugeto be used for the new construction.
Though TTC’s existing streetcar fleet currently operatesover a wide gauge of 4 feet, 107/8 inches, “Metrolinx has now become involved in the financing of the TransitCity lines and it’s calling for standard gauge,” says Railway Age ContributingEditor Greg Gormick. “The gauge hasn't been decided and it is certain to be asource of friction between the TTC and Metrolinx.”