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Rob Ford calls toll road idea 'nonsense' Add to ...

Toronto Transit Commission chairwoman Karen Stintz says it is too early to discuss the details of Mayor Rob Ford's plan to extend the Sheppard subway, but dismissed talk that road tolls and skyscrapers will be required to pay for the $4.2-billion campaign pledge.

Opponents of the Mayor's plan - to use private backing to expand the Sheppard line east to Scarborough Towne Centre and west to Downsview station - warn decisions that will shape the city for generations are being made without the benefit of public scrutiny.

Ms. Stintz said Monday that public input will come, but not before the TTC and its advisors finalize a business plan and submit it for possible funding from the federal government.

"We are at the very beginning stages of this project," she told reporters following a meeting of the city's planning and growth management committee, adding later, "The business case is still being developed, and until it is fully developed, I couldn't tell you what we are going to take back out to the public."

That said, Ms. Stintz said toll roads are not on the table, and the city has no authority to impose them.

Mr. Ford also shot down the road toll idea Monday, floated by Gordon Chong, his hand-picked leader of the body charged with finding a viable funding model for the subway expansion.

"It's nonsense. I don't support road tolls and there's no road tolls going in." Mr. Ford said.

Council members opposed to the subway plan warned at Monday's meeting that the additional new stations will prompt developers to seek higher-density developments and that plans to finance the line with development fees will require a massive building boom along Sheppard Avenue. The voters who supported the mayor's subway campaign pledge and the new underground crosstown light-rail line along Eglinton Avenue have yet to come to grips with the changes these projects will bring to their neighbourhoods in the form of high-rise developments, they charged.

"There are implications and the implications are significant," said committee member Adam Vaughan, who estimated that the new stations would require as many as 600 new condominiums to fund them using development charges. "I think the people of Scarborough need to know that they are looking at a string of 30 to 40 storey condominiums going from the Don Valley Parkway to the Scarborough Town Centre."

Monday's meeting also heard from local residents who opposed the mayor's cancellation of the light rail line along congested Finch Avenue and on Sheppard Avenue east of Scarborough Town centre, part of mayor David Miller's Transit City plan scrapped when Mr. Ford took office.

Celia Smith, a community worker at Jane and Finch who voted for the new mayor, said she did not expect him to cancel the badly needed line.

Ms. Stintz said the TTC will consider alternatives for the Finch route in September.

She also cautioned that it is too soon to say what development will take place along the new subway line. "You are making significant assumptions around how funding of the Sheppard subway will happen," she said.

The city had set June as a deadline to present its business case to Ottawa, but that deadline has been delayed, Ms. Stintz said.

With a file from Patrick White

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