Toronto is being asked for a $95-million payment by the province's regional transit agency to cover a part of the price of building its new airport express line – a cost that bureaucrats are warning could be the "start of many."
Toronto's executive committee passed the 2015 budget proposal Monday, which included a last-minute report revealing that the city and the province are involved in negotiations on funding for a number of transit infrastructure projects. The report comes just a month after a standoff between the province and Mayor John Tory, in which the mayor failed to have funding restored to balance the city's budget.
According to the staff report, Metrolinx – which will launch its new Union-Pearson Express line in the spring – has asked the city to pay an undisclosed portion of its building costs in areas where city and railway infrastructure overlap. The cost would go toward infrastructure such as new grade separation and reconstructing roads and rail bridges. Metrolinx has since confirmed the amount to be approximately $95-million, to be paid over several years.
Anne Marie Aikins, a spokesperson for Metrolinx, noted that the UP Express is part of Metrolinx's $1.2-billion Georgetown South project, and said the city and province have agreements that outline the city's financial requirements in places where their infrastructure overlaps.
"As part of the GTS Project a number of improvements were made along the corridor, to these road and utility crossings," she said in a statement. "In order to expedite the work Metrolinx has relocated all City of Toronto utilities and completed the road crossing work on behalf of the City with the understanding that it would seek repayment for this work as outlined in the various crossing agreements."
Mr. Tory said Monday that negotiations over Toronto's share of the costs are continuing.
"Those are things that will be to the city's benefit in that we'll get new infrastructure and new grade separation and so on," he said.
City manager Joe Pennachetti, meanwhile, characterized the talks with the province as "more or less completed."
Mr. Pennachetti said his staff have been in negotiations with Metrolinx for some time and that the report Monday was designed to bring the committee up-to-date on those talks. In the case of the new airport express line, he said he hopes council will make a decision at its meeting next week.
"It's now council digesting a significant payment," Mr. Pennachetti said, adding that his staff believes the city is getting "value for money."
There is existing legislation for rail corridors that mandates a share of municipal funding, he said.
The province also has said No to two separate requests from the city that total $35-million to share in the extra costs for the renovation of Union Station.
When asked about being denied Union Station funding, Mr. Tory voiced frustration.
"Look, I think there's a lot of things to be discussed with the province with respect to the desire that I would have to see them invest in things that are beneficial not only to the City of Toronto, but also to the region, the GTA," he said.
He's hopeful they will change their minds.
According to the staff report, the city is also looking to renegotiate its annual $20-million payments toward GO Transit capital projects.
Mr. Tory, who was elected on a promise of better relations between the city and the province, was engaged in another impasse with the province just last month.
Early this year in launching his budget proposal, the mayor indicated his hope that the province would reverse cuts it made in previous years to funding for social housing, leaving an $86-million hole. Instead, the province offered only to extend a line of credit at market rates, and the mayor opted for the city to borrow money from its own capital reserves.
On Monday, the city manager stressed that the city will be expected to share in the costs of other regional rail improvements in the future, such as Mr. Tory's SmartTrack plan.
"This is just the start of many, many projects," Mr. Pennachetti said. "Our goal is to work out a framework of principles with Metrolinx and the province for this going forward for literally decades."