After a tumultuous transit debate at city council, light rail transit is coming to Sheppard East, but it may be some time before shovels are in the ground.
Planning agency Metrolinx must now get down to the work of prioritizing transit projects approved by council earlier this year.
In March, council reaffirmed the Sheppard East light rail project from Don Mills Road to Morningside Avenue. That vote followed a February vote that reaffirmed light rail on Finch West and the conversion of the Scarborough RT to light rail.
Metrolinx must now confirm costs and set final construction dates for these projects. Once approved provincial cabinet will finalize the plan.
“I think they’re aiming for June to confirm a schedule, whether it’s Sheppard or Finch (first),” said TTC Chair Karen Stintz, adding there isn’t enough cash flow from the province to build the infrastructure simultaneously.
The Sheppard line was considered a priority project under Metrolinx’s 5-in-10 plan for Transit City. An environmental assessment had been completed and work was already underway when Mayor Rob Ford declared Transit City dead following his 2010 election.
According to Stintz, Ford’s declaration effectively halted work that had begun on an LRT maintenance and storage facility at Sheppard and Conlins Road. A bidding process for the storage facility was also underway.
“I don’t know what they’re going to do with the bids they received now,” Stintz said. “They’re over a year old, I don’t know if they will still be valid.”
In an email, Metrolinx spokesperson Vanessa Thomas confirmed the storage facility project is on hold until Metrolinx and the province make a final decision on the timing of the 5-in-10 projects, which will be based on cash flow and feasibility.
She said recommendations will be presented at the next board meeting. As of early April, no date had been set for the meeting.
Council voted to direct any funding left over from the $8.4 billion the province has dedicated to the Eglinton Crosstown to Finch and Sheppard. The city is also relying on funding from the federal government for Sheppard.
“Because we’ve made a decision for Sheppard, now we can access the $333 million from the federal government,” Stintz said.
Don Valley East councillor Shelley Carroll said she’s eager to see the Sheppard light rail get built now.
She said the light rail construction will bring similar traffic disruption to east of Kennedy where a grade separation project at the Agincourt GO Station is currently causing traffic disruptions.
“Let’s do the LRT construction on that right now, while people are used to having to accommodate the disruption on that road,” she said.
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