The federal government is pouring more than $12-billion into five transit projects across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, including Toronto’s controversial Ontario Line and a Hamilton rapid-transit project the province had previously shelved.
Ottawa pledged to commit to 40 per cent of the cost of the four Toronto-area projects – the Ontario Line, extending subway lines east into Scarborough and north into York Region, as well as a western extension to the Eglinton Crosstown light-rail transit that’s already under construction.
The province previously calculated the combined cost of the Toronto projects to be $28.5-billion, and had been seeking a cost-sharing deal with the federal government.
“Anyone in Toronto can tell you that the subway is way too busy – sometimes in rush hour, people have to wait for two or three trains to go by before they can even get on,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.
Federal Infrastructure and Communities Minister Catherine McKenna said this investment would be the largest of its kind in Canada’s history. She touted job creation and ridding the roads of gridlock traffic as benefits of getting shovels in the ground.
“Cities need good public transit to thrive,” Ms. McKenna said. “For many residents, it’s the only viable option.”
She put Ottawa’s share of the cost for the four provincially planned Toronto projects at $10.4-billion.
The Ontario Line, the most prominent of the Toronto projects, is to bring rapid transit from Exhibition Place, through downtown, to the Ontario Science Centre.
The Eglinton Crosstown West extension would see “continuous rapid transit” along Eglinton Avenue between Scarborough and Mississauga, Ms. McKenna said.
On Yonge Street North, construction would extend the subway’s Line 1 north to the suburbs of Vaughan, Markham and Richmond Hill.
For transit riders in Scarborough, the investment would help realize a proposal that adds three additional stops and a 7.8-kilometre stretch of tunnel along the Bloor–Danforth Line 2 between Kennedy subway station and Sheppard Avenue.
For Hamilton, Mr. Trudeau said his government would provide support for a rapid-transit line expected to run from McMaster University, through downtown, to Eastgate Centennial Park in Stoney Creek. He added that funding would also be put toward purchasing zero-emissions streetcars for the Toronto Transit Commission.
“Not only will these new streetcars help [keep] Toronto’s air cleaner, this deal will also help protect good, middle-class jobs at the Alstom automotive plant in Thunder Bay,” Mr. Trudeau said.
Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said the announcement has been “a long time in the making” since the province has been focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Ford government has also been “steadfast in seeing this partnership through.”
“We’re looking to finalize contracts for tunnelling for Scarborough and Eglinton in the coming days so we needed to finalize our partnership agreement with the federal government ahead of that,” Ms. Mulroney said.
Mapping out a timeline for when commuters would be able to use the new subway extensions, Ms. Mulroney said the province hopes the Ontario Line will open by 2029, with the Scarborough extension date between 2029 and 2030. Eglinton West is expected to be fully ready between 2030 to 2031 and Yonge Street North sometime after 2030.
The Ontario Line has created a series of headaches for the provincial government since Queen’s Park took over transit expansion and, in 2019, proposed it as a replacement for the city’s long-planned relief line. Some residents have complained that it will disrupt their neighbourhood while critics argue its route is designed to help developers.
Ms. Mulroney had previously cancelled plans for Hamilton’s LRT in December, 2019, citing rising costs, a move that angered local politicians and transit supporters.
However, the province then struck an expert panel to examine other options. One of those would be for the province to maintain its original funding commitment and tap the federal government to pick up the rest of the bill to get shovels in the ground and make the LRT project happen.
Neither Ms. Mulroney nor Ms. McKenna would answer questions about the Hamilton LRT investment on Tuesday, saying another announcement is expected to come later this week.
Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger did not respond to requests for comment.
Following Tuesday’s announcement, Mr. Ford tweeted his support for the investment, hailing it as one step closer to “making Ontario’s #TransitPlan a reality.”
“Two years ago, we unveiled a historic $28.5-billion plan to build four new subway lines to connect the #GTA. Since then, we’ve been urging Ottawa to invest in these projects. Today, that hard work has paid off,” wrote Mr. Ford.
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who represents the riding of Hamilton Centre, called the revival of the Hamilton LRT a “great victory for Hamiltonians,” adding, “I’m so proud to have stood with you, together, to stop Doug Ford’s cuts, and to fight for the transit that families in our community deserve.”
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