LRT start dates planned

[attach]5794[/attach]We should be riding the rails on Eglinton by 2020.

At its April board meeting, Metrolinx endorsed the plan council passed for light rail projects on Finch, Sheppard, Scarborough and Eglinton.

In backing council’s plan to revert to Transit City, the provincial transit agency also laid out a renewed timeline of construction dates for projects, some of which were delayed by council’s wrangling over light rail versus subways.

The Eglinton Crosstown, the only line currently under construction and the largest of the four infrastructure projects, is scheduled for completion in 2020.

After two months of contentious debate and two controversial council votes, Don Valley East councillor John Parker says he was pleased to see concrete timelines.

“I’m not too fussed about which project is done first and exactly what the sequence is,” he said. “I’m just glad that all four of them are going ahead and I’m glad we’re all focusing on a completion date at least by 2020.”

Unlike the construction of the Sheppard LRT, which was halted shortly after Mayor Rob Ford declared Transit City dead in the water, the Crosstown construction is proceeding largely as scheduled.

Preparations for tunneling the underground portion are underway, as is work on the underground stations.

“The work on Eglinton was continuing throughout all of this,” Parker said. “On Sheppard, there’s some time that’s been lost and it’s fair to assume that that delay will come with some sort of a cost.”

A penalty of less than $10 million will likely be unavoidable for planning and engineering work already conducted in preparation of eastern tunneling on Eglinton, said a Metrolinx spokesperson. Council reversed that plan in February, and tunnelling will no longer be required as the Crosstown will travel on the surface east of Brentcliffe Road to Kennedy Station.

In recommending firm timelines, Metrolinx confirmed the agency will work with Infrastructure Ontario to secure additional funding through public-private partnerships.

Metrolinx also asserted their own $8.4 billion in transit funding is contingent on the TTC implementing the PRESTO fare card.

The recommendations from Metrolinx are now off to Queen’s Park for consideration, where they are widely expected to be rubberstamped by cabinet.

Mayor Ford’s bid for subterranean transit projects —including an eastward extension to the Sheppard subway — lost steam on the floor of council, but he has said he will continue to push for subways.

But according to Parker, his efforts may be in vain regardless of who is in power – at either the provincial or municipal level — once construction begins on the three other light rail lines.

If approved at Queen’s Park, Parker said a legally binding document is to be signed by the two levels of government, Metrolinx and the TTC.

“That document will be binding on everybody,” he said. “And then it doesn’t matter who wins or loses elections, we still have binding commitments between governments and between legal entities.”

However, Parker noted there’s always uncertainty with such projects.

“When people start writing cheques and track starts being laid, that’s when you know for sure.”

Eglinton Crosstown: 2010-2020
Finch West: 2015-19
Sheppard East: 2014-18
Scarborough RT To LRT: 2014-19