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Ford government signs agreement with York Region to extend subway line

A TTC subway car. UNSPLASH/Justin Main

A major step forward for the Yonge North Subway Extension.

The Ford government and York Region have signed a preliminary agreement to partially pay for and build the estimated $5.6 billion project.

It would see the subway extended 7.4 kilometres north on Yonge Street, adding six stops between Finch Station to Highway 7 in Richmond Hill.

Under the agreement, the province would assume responsibility for the planning, design and construction of the subway line and once completed, it would continue ownership of the line.

Back in 2019, the Ford government unveiled a $28.5 billion transit expansion plan which included the Yonge North Subway Extension, the Ontario Line, a three-stop Scarborough Subway Extension and the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension which would link to Pearson airport.

Premier Doug Ford was asked Thursday about the possibility of postponing any of the transit projects due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put a financial strain on the economy.

“Absolutely not,” said Ford. “Infrastructure is critical and there’s no better way to get people back – you go back to the Depression – it’s infrastructure.”

“We need to continue building these lines for the next 50 years, we just can’t stop right now. We’re building these four lines because we people to get moving, we need traffic congestion to slow down and people to take rapid transit.”

Richmond Hill Mayor Dave Barrow says expanding the subway to his city is a critical missing link in the transit network of the GTHA.

The region is looking for a 40 per cent funding commitment from the federal government, something Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti says is needed sooner rather than later.

“The longer that we wait to hear the answer from the federal government, they are delaying this critical project for York Region,” said Scarpitti. “If we get that commitment we can move forward in a very meaningful way, advancing much of the engineering work and design work that’s needed and you could actually see some of the early construction work needed in preparation for the major work start as early as next year.”

When Ford first unveiled his transit plan in April 2019, he said the province would foot the entire bill if necessary. However, on Thursday he reiterated his desire for the federal government to step up to the table with funding.

“We’re putting our fair share in and we’d really hope that the federal government would put their 40 per cent in,” said Ford.

The project is expected to create 60,000 construction jobs and eliminate more than 3,300 buses once the subway is completed.