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Downtown relief line can be sped up by 2 years: Tory

Last Updated Jan 17, 2019 at 6:41 pm EDT

He’s made it a top transit priority and now Mayor John Tory said the city has found a way to speed up completion of the downtown relief line by two years.

“People have made it very clear to us, and we understand, as do the experts, that we need relief when it comes to our transit system,” Tory said during a press conference at Pape Station on Thursday morning.

“That’s been clear in every poll conducted on transit, it’s been clear in every expert report and it was very clear in terms of what the people had to say to us at the time of the last election.”

Tory said $162-million would be added to the TTC’s capital budget this year to make this earlier completion date possible.

That money would allow for stages of construction construction to be done at the same time, instead of on a linear timeline, including land acquisition, utility relocation and buying the technology needed to build the subway.

The new TTC capital budget would have to be voted on by city council but Tory said it will have his full support. Budget chief Gary Crawford was also at the announcement, showing his support for the project.

If approved, the completion date for the downtown relief line would be 2029.

As for the province’s desire to take over Toronto’s subway system, Tory said he isn’t worried that Premier Doug Ford’s plans will get in the way of the downtown relief line, and if this would get in the way of provincial funding for the project.

“I’ve had meetings with him … and I can just tell you that he is absolutely committed to this project. He said so during the election campaign … and he’s absolutely committed to finding every way possible, working with us, to get it done as soon as possible.”

The mayor said this announcement is the “ultimate proof” the city is moving forward with the project.

“The relief line will fundamentally change, for the better, our subway system and the way people can get around this city,” Tory said.

“I am committed to being the mayor that gets the relief line built.”

The planned 7.5-kilometre subway line with eight stations will connect the downtown core at Queen and Osgoode stations on Line 1 to Pape Station on Line 2.

It’s estimated that the new transit line would divert 2,500 people from the overcrowded Yonge line every hour and take pressure off the Yonge and Bloor transfer station.

“On a typical day like today, 27,080 rides start and end here (at Pape Station), part of more than half-a-million rides along Line 2, each and every day,” Tory said.

“That’s a lot of people and of course, as we know, many of those people who get on here will get to Yonge and Bloor and switch to Line 1 to head to work downtown or uptown.”

The second phase — the Relief Line North — will extend north from Pape Station and connect to existing and future rapid transit, like Line 5 Eglinton and Line 4 Sheppard.

Last October, province gave the city and Metrolinx permission to proceed with the line following its environmental assessment of the project.

Shortly thereafter, Tory announced the creation of a “transit czar” — a role that will focus on building the transit network plan, including the downtown relief line.