Toronto’s central waterfront—the heavily-travelled stretch of Queen’s Quay between Bathurst and Lower Jarvis—has long been slated for a makeover by Waterfront Toronto. The plans include a complete revamp of the streetscape, and require that the streetcar tracks currently running through the centre of Queens Quay be shifted a bit south from their current location.
Today, the TTC issued a report in anticipation of the next Commission meeting on June 8 [PDF]. In that report: a recommendation that unless Waterfront Toronto come up with the full funding for the revitalization project by the end of this month, the TTC proceed with rebuilding the tracks in their current location. This would mean that if Waterfront Toronto proceeds with its elements of the project later on, some changes to that overall plan would need to be made, though these changes are described in the report as “relatively minor.”
As it turns out, one of those minor changes might be turning Queen’s Quay into a one-way street.
The revitalization plan calls for moving the tracks south, having all traffic lanes—in both directions—north of the tracks, and a widened pedestrain concourse south of the tracks. Keeping the tracks in the current location will mean that there is only room for traffic travelling in one direction north of the tracks.
According to the TTC, the tracks are worn and need to be rebuilt relatively urgently (a streetcar derailed in April) as temporary fixes are only going so far; they are planning to do the work during the 2012 construction season. And thus, they say, they cannot wait any longer for Waterfront Toronto to come up with financing for the streetscape revitalization, and must instead procedd with relaying the tracks in their current location—a smaller project for which the TTC has its own funding.
Waterfront Toronto, meanwhile, told us today that they already have the money, and this is a purely administrative hold-up. We spoke with Marisa Piattelli, who manages government relations for the organization, by phone; she told us that this is not a question of securing financing at all, as the project is already included in the money Waterfront Toronto has been promised by all three levels of government. (WT is the result of a tri-partite agreement between the federal, provincial, and municipal government, each of which has promised $500 million. WT does not have all the money sitting in an account, however; funds are dispensed on an ongoing basis.) All it requires is shifting funds from other long-term projects to this one, Piattelli emphasized, a simple matter of moving money that has already been promised from one line item to a different one, to accomodate the time-sensitivity of this particular project. “We have been talking to the TTC about this project for years,” Piattelli says, “and there are no problems here except reallocating funds.”
The kicker? The level of government that would need to approve the reallocation, according to WT: the City of Toronto.
Waterfront Toronto’s budget—the specific allocation of funds for specific projects—gets considered and approved by all three orders of government each year. It was last voted on by city council in February, and will come before them again in January 2012. For reasons that are unclear, the reallocation request was not part of the plan that went before council in February, and thus the money, though everyone knows where it will be coming from, is not yet considered “secured.”
We asked Piattelli if WT knew that the TTC was going to request funding guarantees by the end of the month. She says that they did not, and in fact WT was only aware of today’s TTC report when Torontoist got in touch with the organization with our questions about it.
Both the TTC and Waterfront Toronto agree that they should be working in concert, and that all the construction projects should, as much as possible, be done in tandem. If the TTC approves the recommendation in this report, then either: the City will have to agree to reallocate the funds within the next month, and the entire revitalization project proceeds; or there will need to be a revised revitalization plan which includes (a) the possibility of turning a two-way street into a one-way street, and (b) putting Waterfront Toronto in the position of having to rip up roadwork in order to accomodate its own, later construction, rather than utilizing the TTC’s construction period to do work as well.
Any guesses as to how our mayor feels about that?