Days before a report about funding a Sheppard subway extension was to be made public, Ward 10 councillor James Pasternak said he was buoyed by news that it included plans for a western link to Downsview station.
“The fact that it’s discussed, the fact that it’s on the radar screen is actually very exciting,” said the York Centre rep who campaigned on a promise to advocate for an underground link between the two northern stations.
“Without a continuous loop on the subway system, you really have a dysfunctional subway network,” he said.
A westward link from Sheppard Station to Downsview Station would effectively close the Yonge-University-Spadina line loop.
The Sheppard funding report, headed up by former councillor Gordon Chong, indicates the Sheppard line could extend east into Scarborough to the tune of $2.8 billion according to an estimate by Metrolinx.
The second phase would extend it west of Sheppard, ending at Downsview station. Metrolinx has reportedly pegged the cost of closing the loop at $1 billion.
Pasternak said the link is a necessity, especially given the projected amount of commuters expected to be travelling along the Spadina extension into Vaughan. Construction for that line is underway.
“That will funnel another 50,000 commuters into Toronto on our subway line,” he said. “You need to have a way to have them move in a continuous loop across the city, either coming down or going back north.
“That missing piece between Downsview station and Yonge Street across Sheppard will create a total bottleneck in our transit flow.”
The Chong report also raises the spectre of paying for the currently unfunded extension with road tolls, parking levies, and funding from the private sector.
In an interview with the Town Crier prior to the release of Chong’s report, Pasternak admitted he wasn’t receiving much support from his colleagues, who are largely focused on funding earmarked for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT.
TTC chair Karen Stintz has recently suggested the Eglinton light rail line be built aboveground on the eastern portion of the line in order to free up millions of dollars that could be directed to other capital transit projects.
The move was seen as breaking ranks with Mayor Rob Ford, who is adamant about burying the line completely.
Pasternak said while he supports Stintz’s plan, he admits that any money saved by building the Crosstown aboveground in the east, if it were to happen, would not go toward the closing the loop.
However, he also said other levels of government must get involved in funding the Sheppard subway extension.
“I think there is a role for the private sector to come in and help construct it and help fund it … but we still need provincial and federal funding to get that one done,” he said, noting projects of this scale rarely come in on time and never on budget.
“So to rely on these types of items, development fees, road tolls and other revenue tools, parking and so forth, it’s a difficult thing to put 100 percent banking on that,” Pasternak said.
Meanwhile, Willowdale councillor David Shiner welcomed news of the Chong report, saying he has always supported underground subway along Sheppard.
“I think the mayor is just going forward with a plan that was adopted by metro council before amalgamation,” Shiner said. “It was never meant to be only a short section, and anything but a subway on Sheppard Avenue would be a nightmare for residents all along Sheppard.”
While metro council might have approved closing the loop, that project is not included in Metrolinx’s Big Move master plan for transportation.
One city hall insider has also questioned the projected $1 billion cost to build a subway line along Sheppard between Yonge and Downsview. The insider, who asked not to be named, says a price tag of $1 billion likely doesn’t take into account the cost of building infrastructure to get the line across the West Don River.
The report on funding options for the Sheppard extension is to be presented at a Feb. 13 executive committee meeting.
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