Metrolinx Staff Give Stamp of Approval to Street-Level Light Rail
Metrolinx staff affirm their support for street-level light rail. Again.
Metrolinx staff are recommending that the provincially-controlled regional transit agency move ahead with construction on all three street-level light rail lines endorsed by city council over Mayor Rob Ford’s objections earlier this year, according to a report released earlier today ahead of an April 25th meeting of the Metrolinx board. Under the proposed timeline, Eglinton Avenue, Sheppard Avenue East, and Finch Avenue West would all have functioning light-rail lines by 2020.
This is yet another chapter in a long saga of transit strife triggered by the election of Mayor Ford, who on his first day in office declared a Metrolinx-approved light-rail plan very similar to this one “dead.” (Back then, it was known as Transit City.)
Metrolinx’s endorsement means that, provided the agency’s board approves everything at tomorrow’s meeting, there will be one less political obstacle to building street-level light rail in Toronto. City council endorsed the plan at special meetings in February and March, and the province, on the hook for an $8.4 billion contribution that is expected to cover most of the cost of building the new rail infrastructure, has been decidedly hands-off.
The proposed timeline would see the Eglinton Avenue LRT, which will run underground for a little more than half its length (whereas Ford would have had it entirely underground), completed by 2020. The Scarborough RT would be upgraded to new light-rail technology by 2019. Sheppard East, the street for which Mayor Ford vociferously promoted a subway extension, would be up and running with street-level light rail by 2018. And Finch West, whose fate under the Ford proposal was uncertain, would have LRT by 2019. This is a little different than the projected completion schedule that existed prior to Rob Ford’s mayoralty. Then, Sheppard was expected to have light rail by 2014, Finch in 2019, and Sheppard and the Scarborough RT by 2020.
The new Metrolinx board report recommends, among other things, that Metrolinx use Infrastructure Ontario to deliver the project. IO is a provincial agency that specializes in managing public-private partnerships. Another staff recommendation is to seek private funds through the federal P3 Canada Fund. That’s all well and good, but if a private company ends up building the new lines without participation from the TTC, the TTC’s management will likely not be happy. Last year, at the first whisper of a public-private partnership, there were reports that TTC brass were suggesting that Toronto’s new light rail would be better operated by an outside agency.
Read the full Metrolinx board report here.