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A new report by city staff says Toronto has spent around $224 millionover the last few years on planning for priority transit projects, some ofwhich are now in question due to changes being contemplated by the province forthe city’s transit system.

The report provides city council with an update on the 2016 transitnetwork plan, designed to reduce the strain on the city’s crowded subway systemand says that some of those projects are now at a “critical” juncture in theirdevelopment.

It includes progress updates on the downtown relief line, theScarborough subway extension, SmartTrack, waterfront transit, and the EglintonEast and Eglinton West LRT projects.

According to the report, prepared in consultation with TTC CEO RickLeary, several of those projects are currently ready or will be ready by theend of 2020 to move to the procurement and construction phase. Those projectsinclude SmartTrack Stations, the Scarborough subway extension, the ExhibitionLoop-Dufferin Loop Streetcar Connection (part of the Waterfront TransitNetworkPlan), and the downtown relief line.

The report comes a week after Premier Doug Ford threw a bomb in thetransit file, saying that the province had a different view of transit projectsin Toronto as part of ongoing discussions about a provincial upload of thecity’s subway system.

Letters sent to the city by provincial officials indicated that theprovince would like to look at using unspecified alternative technologies tobuild the relief line, add two more stops onto the Scarborough subwayextension, shift a significant portion of the Eglinton LRT project underground,and fast-track the Yonge North subway extension.

The proposed changes have thrown into question the cost and timing ofthe affected projects and the province has yet to fill in the blanks on many ofthe specifics of how the changes would work.

According to the city staff report released Wednesday, the provinceand Metrolinx have shared “limited information” about the changes to date.

“Changes in direction, be it in scope, technology, project delivery orfunding create uncertainty and risk,” the report says. “These risks have thepotential for delays in the delivery of much-needed public infrastructure andadditional costs. The risks are not confined to financial consequences but alsorelate to reputational risks in public confidence in government.”

City staff say further discussions with the province are required inorder to understand the possible impact of the provincial changes to thetransit network plan.

Speaking about the report at Bloor-Yonge Station Wednesday, Mayor JohnTory said he is opposed to any changes that would delay the delivery of plannedtransit infrastructure.

“Any proposed changes to our plan risk delaying already overdue transitexpansion in the city,” Tory said. “That is why I’m so committed to seeing thatwe move ahead and do so in a way that does not cause delay. We owe it to everyresident in the City of Toronto to get on with building transit and to, now atthe stage that some of these projects are at, to actually get constructionunderway.

Scarborough subway extension costs grow

Numbers in the report confirm that the estimated cost of the one-stopScarborough subway extension has risen to $3.9 billion, compared to the $3.56billion approved for Scarborough transit by city council in 2013. The city isresponsible for cost overruns on the project. City staff say the extra $327million will be made up through recoverable debt, with the debt service costsaccounted for through higher-than-expected development charges, lower borrowingcosts and interest from the Scarborough Subway Extension tax levy.

Among the recommendations in the report, city staff suggest that thecity manager report back to council on the operational impacts to the TTCassociated with changing the scope and/or delivery of the Scarborough subway.

Downtown Relief Line estimated at $7.2B

The report also includes a cost estimate for the downtown relief line.According to the report, the cost is currently pegged at $7.2 billion. Howeverstaff note that number is an early estimate and the actual cost couldpotentially be as much as double that amount.

Federal infrastructure funding is expected to account for $3.15billion of the project cost.

More detailed design work for the relief line is expected to becomplete by the first quarter of 2020, along with a more accurate costestimate.

In its overview of the city’s transit landscape, the report notes thatTorontonians rely more heavily on transit than any of their surroundingmunicipal neighbours.

“There is a strong reliance on the transit network in Toronto, withapproximately 46 per cent of trips in the downtown and 28 per cent of all tripscitywide made by transit,” the report says.

By comparison, just four to eight per cent of trips are made usingtransit in Hamilton and in the regions of Durham, York, Peel and Halton.

“An expanded, connected transit network is central to the city beingable to respond to current growth and development, and to plan for the expected500,000+ new residents of Toronto over the coming decades,” the report notes.

The city’s executive committees expected to meet next week to consider the report. cp24

April 6, 2019

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