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Scarborough subway extension to proceed despite ballooning costs

Last Updated Jul 13, 2016 at 11:21 pm EST

The controversial one-stop extension of Line 2 will go ahead as planned after council voted 28-15 against reviving plans for a seven-stop light-rail transit (LRT) line in the east end on Wednesday.

The issue was being discussed as part of a broader transit plan for Toronto. However, the subway versus LRT debate dominated the council meeting.

“Following this vote we must now put an end to years of inaction and delay and move ahead with a comprehensive plan to serve our city’s needs,” said Mayor John Tory, a vocal supporter of the Scarborough subway extension.

“This plan was approved with a wealth of input and information from city staff, including the city manager’s office, the TTC and our planning department, and I want to thank them for their hard work and professionalism.”

Councillors also voted in favour of the Downtown Relief Line and studies into other possible transit projects, including extending the Sheppard subway line and linking Downsview to Yonge-Sheppard.

A motion to extend the Eglinton Crosstown LRT 17 stops to the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus passed unanimously.

Meanwhile, the cost for the subway extension, to Scarborough Town Centre, has ballooned once again. This time, it’s another $200-million for decommissioning the Scarborough RT and financing costs.

Last month, the city manager said the estimated cost was pegged at $3.16-billion, which was higher than Mayor John Tory’s $2.9-billion estimate – an increase of around $900-million from the cost estimate issued in January.

However, at the city council meeting on Wednesday, staff said the increased cost did not factor in the additional $200-million. The overall estimated cost is now around $3.4-billion.

Tory said the added cost of financing would also apply to the LRT.

“The cost of the LRT, the old LRT, has for reasons stated — including Kennedy station and the passage of time — substantially inflated to the point where now, it’s not that far off the cost of the express subway,” Tory said.

“And that’s where you’ll have to start to consider the fact that the express subway, according to Mr. Byford this morning, is going to last 80 years, where the LRT, for almost the same amount of money, is going to last 30.”

But Coun. Josh Matlow said the mayor was “absolutely” fudging the numbers to make the subway extension look more favourable.

“He’s factually incorrect,” Matlow said. “What is omitted from his arguments is that the inflationary costs on the LRT … are actually in the master agreement agreed to by Metrolinx.

“With respect to the city’s budget, we won’t actually have to pay for the ongoing maintenance costs; we won’t have to pay for the capital costs for the LRT; we won’t have to pay for the shutdown of the SRT. In other words, all these words that are being used as an apple to apple comparison are really apples and oranges.”

The increased cost for the Scarborough subway means the city is short $1.3-billion for the LRT to U of T Scarborough.

The price for the original version of the project, a three-stop subway, was budgeted at $3.56-billion. If the city stayed with the three-stop subway, it would be been $1.4-billion over budget, and would cost $4.3-billion.

The subway extension, now down to one stop after stations at Lawrence and Sheppard were cut, will have the remaining corridor serviced by the 17-stop LRT.


Related stories:

Scarborough subway extension hot topic once again at City Hall

Scarborough subway price tag hits $3.16B

Tory defends extra $900M for Scarborough subway extension


TTC CEO Andy Byford points out the longer we wait, the more it costs.

“The costs per month of delay for the Scarborough subway is $13-million,” Byford said.

TTC chair Josh Colle said the east end has had LRT for a while and there was evidence to suggest it is not the right call.

“We’ve had light-rail or rapid transit in that corridor for a generation. It hasn’t brought the development, hasn’t brought the economic activity, and in fact even after decades of having it in that corridor, people don’t use it,” Colle said.

Coun. Gord Perks, who was in favour of the LRT, said the one-stop subway plan is equivalent to the subway running from Union to Davisville stations, calling it bad urban planning.

Meanwhile, city planner Jennifer Keesmaat recommended council remove the three-stop subway plan from consideration and move forward with analysis for LRT to the U of T Scarborough campus.

With files from Cynthia Mulligan and Momin Qureshi