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Council approves transit-heavy budget Add to ...

The purchase of new subway cars, buses and light-rail vehicles, many to replace aging fleets, tops the 2010 capital budget Toronto council approved yesterday.

After a day-long debate, council voted 32-8 in favour of Mayor David Miller's final capital budget before he leaves office next October.

"It is an extraordinarily unprecedented investment in transit, libraries, community centres - all the things to make a city livable and successful," Mr. Miller said.

Of the $2.5-billion capital budget, 32 per cent is fuelled by stimulus dollars from the federal and provincial governments, with transit sucking up 55 per cent of spending.

The use-it-or-lose-it nature of federal stimulus dollars, which requires projects be largely completed by March 31, 2011, means the city had to accelerate spending originally planned for three to five years from now.

Transit projects for 2010 include $827-million for the Toronto Transit Commission, $189-million for early stages of the Spadina subway extension, $301-million for Transit City, a new network of light-rail lines to improve service in the suburbs and $129-million for a long-awaited renewal of Union Station, the busiest transit hub in the country.

Many of the councillors who voted against the budget said they were skeptical of the city's new strategy of borrowing over 30 years, not the usual 10, for the city's share of the Spadina subway extension and waterfront renewal projects.

"It's a travesty of good financial management," said Councillor Case Ootes (Ward 29, Toronto-Danforth).

Another critic, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East), said "we're really stuck financially. Our solution is to go out on a spending spree and ask the bank for a bigger, longer-term mortgage."

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