Relief for Toronto in the works

Written by John Thompson, Canadian Contributing Editor
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The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and the City of Toronto recently announced that commencement of construction of the Downtown Relief Subway would be moved up by two years, perhaps to 2020. The plan would require the city committing C$325 million for design and engineering work, property acquisition, utilities relocation, etc., as well as equipment procurement and contracts tendering. Given this priority, the Relief Subway could be carrying its first passengers by 2029.

Design work is currently at about the 10% point. The C$325 million would be added to the TTC’s Capital Budget over the next two years, withC $162 million allocated for 2019.

The route, some four miles long, extends eastward from Queen Station on the Yonge Subway (Line 1), then north to Pape Station on the Bloor-Danforth Subway (Line 2). The project, as the name signifies, will divert passengers from the seriously overcrowded Yonge Subway. This problem has been aggravated in recent decades by the continuing construction of high-rise residential towers along the line, particularly in the Yonge-Eglinton, and Yonge-Bloor areas.

The city expects that the Ontario Provincial and Canadian Federal governments will provide significant financial contributions, supplementing Toronto’s. The estimated preliminary cost of the Relief Subway is C$6.8 billion. The majority, if not all, of the alignment would be underground. Neither government so far has committed specific funding to the project. However, Toronto Mayor John Tory is optimistic, noting that these governments have already committed, in general terms, some C$9 billion for Toronto area transit projects.

The elephant in the room, however, is Ontario’s announced intention to assume ownership, possibly via Metrolinx, of the existing subway system and future projects from the TTC, a City of Toronto agency. The city, legally, apparently lacks the power to prevent this, although the takeover is certain to be controversial. The TTC, presumably, would continue to operate the subways, as will be the case with the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. The Provincial Minister of Transportation said that appropriate legislation will be introduced this spring.

The Province’s stated reason for the takeover is the opinion that it can build subways more quickly and efficiently than the TTC and the city. That said, the proposal is likely to be controversial with many Torontonians.

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