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Mayor Ford still wants Sheppard subway

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford still wants the city to complete the Sheppard subway and says it should take priority over the downtown relief line now that new funding from the federal government is being made available to municipalities.

“Starting the downtown relief line [DRL] is also important but not as important as getting a subway to Scarborough,” Ford said.

The mayor made the comment during a news conference on Friday to discuss how Toronto could benefit from new money announced by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in the federal budget under the Building Canada plan and the Community Improvement Fund.

“We should finish what we started by closing the loop to Don Mills and extending it to Downsview,” Ford said. “That will provide new connectivity and relieve stress on the Yonge line.”

His remarks were in stark contrast to those made Thursday by TTC chair Karen Stintz who said the commission’s priority would be to apply to build the DRL from St. Andrew to Pape stations.

Ford also said the current plan to install light rail transit (LRT) on Finch Avenue won’t do anything to help reduce commuting times, and called on the city to “adjust our plans now to make this a faster solution and that means burying the line.”

The mayor and a handful of councillors were bitterly opposed to what council ultimately approved last November, which was for the TTC and Metrolinx to build four LRT lines on Eglinton Avenue East, Sheppard Avenue East, Finch Avenue West and along the Scarborough RT route.

Ford said subways weren’t the only priority for Toronto.

“Roads are also important,” he told reporters.

Toronto’s road system is old and requires hundreds of millions of dollars in maintenance, and the Gardiner Expressway requires $500 million over the next 10 years just to keep it safe regardless of what city council decides to do with it, he said.

Other funding priorities for Ford include affordable housing and clean water.

Toronto Water serves 3.5 million residents, but Toronto, York and Peel regions continue to face a $1.6-billion capital funding shortfall.

There are 164,000 people living in Toronto public housing which is in “very poor shape,” Ford said. But “we’re working very hard to turn that ship around.”

Ford asked the federal government to renew its commitment to affordable housing and it has apparently done so.

“So that’s really good news for Toronto,” he said.