[attach]5633[/attach]The future of transit on Sheppard Avenue East was sealed yesterday when council vowed to pick up where a stunted subway line left off — only this time with aboveground rail transit.
Councillors voted 24-19 for a light rail plan to run along Sheppard from Don Mills subway station in North York to Morningside Avenue in Scarborough. In doing so, council essentially rubberstamped a revised Transit City plan set in motion in early February, when it voted to build the Eglinton Crosstown at grade east of Laird Avenue, run light rail on Finch West, and replace the aging Scarborough RT.
The Sheppard vote, which came after a lengthy Tuesday council meeting spilled into Wednesday, went down as expected — much to the chagrin of Mayor Rob Ford, who had campaigned on a promise to extend the subway on Sheppard.
After the vote, Ford told reporters his fight against rail tracks on Sheppard was far from over.
“I’m not going to support the LRTs, I’ll tell you that right now,” he said. “I’m going to do everything in my power to try to stop it.”
Only 18 months into his four-year term, Ford said the subway versus light rail debate will be an election issue leading up to 2014.
“Obviously, the campaign starts now, and I’m willing to take anyone on to fight streetcars against subways in the next election, and I can’t wait for that,” he said.
Ford also noted he would still encourage the keepers of the transit purse —the province — to build subways.
But there’s slim chance of that happening on Sheppard East.
After the vote, Transportation Minister Bob Chiarelli issued a press release stating the province respects the will of council, who “sent a message today to the province and to Metrolinx that light rail transit is their preference.”
The province is expected to devote most of the $8.4 billion in reserved funds to the Eglinton Crosstown, with approximately $2 billion of that figure going to other re-confirmed light rail projects.
Ford had been intent on keeping the Crosstown completely underground, and funding a roughly $4.7 billion Sheppard subway extension by partnering with the private sector.
TTC Chair Karen Stintz said the mayor never presented a tangible plan for subway along Sheppard.
“I had asked the mayor for a funding plan for the Sheppard subway, and councillors were fairly clear that, absent a funded plan for the subway, we’re going to go with a funded plan for the LRT,” she said in a phone interview a day after the vote.
Check back to mytowncrier.ca as we get post-vote reaction from residents and politicians.