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Province announces $150M in funding for downtown relief line

Last Updated Jun 1, 2016 at 7:57 pm EDT

The downtown relief line is closer to reality with a $150-million injection from the province for an engineering study.

Ontario’s Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca joined Mayor John Tory and TTC chair Josh Cole, on Wednesday to announce that the money will go to Metrolinx to ensure that the project “is well-designed.”

“We’re doing what people want us to do,” Tory said. “Actually get things done. Actually proceed with transit projects. Actually build transit. And this day today, and the contribution being made by the government of Ontario, is a very, very important step forward for the people of Toronto and I very much appreciate the government and the ministers and Metrolinx’s great partnership in making that happen.”

The route, which will run from Pape Station to the downtown core via Queen Street, will work to alleviate some of the overcrowding on Line 1, as well as two of the city’s highest-traffic subway station – Bloor/Yonge and Union.

Map of proposed downtown relief line in relation to the possible SmartTrack line. GRAPHIC: CityNews
Map of proposed downtown relief line in relation to the possible SmartTrack line. GRAPHIC: CityNews

Tory said this funding assures the downtown relief line will go ahead on time.

“It will certainly help us to keep on a schedule that will have this important addition to our transit system in operation soon,” Tory said. “But not as soon as SmartTrack and not as soon as the LRT projects that are under constriction now. They started earlier.”

It’s estimated that the timeline for the downtown relief line is about 12 years.

Tory added that the funding also helps the city’s plan for transit expansion push forward as a whole, not just one project at a time.

“Now we have a plan that goes out for years … 15 to 20 years we’re talking about here and beyond, where we’re going to have various (transit projects) and they will end up being done in a logical, sequential order simply because of the length of time it will take for them to be done,” Tory said.

“Finch and Eglinton are underway. Scarborough will soon be underway. SmartTrack is underway and the relief line is still in its planning stages but will be underway as well,” he continued.

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Tory isn’t the only one who believes the city is in desperate need of a downtown relief line.

According to a survey conducted earlier this year, more than half of Torontonians (52.6 per cent) cited the downtown relief line as their number one transit priority – well above Tory’s SmartTrack plan (17 per cent) and the Scarborough subway extension (30 per cent).

“The downtown relief line is not a speculative transit project, it’s not that we will build and say let’s hope people will use it,” transit expert and Ryerson University associate professor Murtaza Haider explained. “It’s something we know will be used because the demand already exists.

“We see the congestion at Yonge and Bloor, we see how people are packed like sardines on subways and we know the only way to fix that is to provide a viable alternative.”

In April, TTC CEO Andy Byford said that an estimated $850 million of the transit money allocated in the Trudeau government’s inaugural budget would go towards the TTC.

Byford said the TTC is the least-funded transit system in North America, with 70 per cent funded through the fare box and 30 per cent funded through subsidy, which comes from the city.

“For the subsidy we’re given, the TTC performs miracles everyday,” he said.

Byford said once the money rolls in from Ottawa, he has a “shopping list” of things that need to be done including:

  • New vehicles will need to be procured
  • Modernizing Line 2 will need new trains and signalling system
  • Potential new TTC yard
  • Upgrades to the tracks, much of which is around 40 years old
  • Pump and drainage improvements