A day before the provincial government's first budget is unveiled, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announces the "Ontario Line" - Toronto's new downtown TTC relief line. Ford is also set to unveil the provincial government's $28.5 billion plan for new transit construction in the GTA this morning. According to Ford, who spoke at an event in Burlington yesterday, the provincial government's transit plans entail "the largest infrastructure project in transit in North America." He claims, "It's going to be $28.5 billion that we're looking to invest into Ontario to get people moving."
The plan encompasses a new Downtown Relief Line, the Scarborough subway extension, the Yonge subway extension to Richmond Hill and the Eglinton West LRT. Municipal and federal governments will contribute to funding these various projects, but it is not yet known how much support each will provide.
Ford's transit plans include extending the Yonge subway line to Richmond Hill faster than expected by the city, adding two stations to the existing plans for the Scarborough subway, and to move construction underground for the Etobicoke stretch of the Eglinton West LRT extension.
CBC News reported this morning that based on the most recently available approximations, the four projects may cost over $20 billion; the Downtown Relief Line is estimated to cost $7.2 billion, the Scarborough subway extension $3.9 billion, the Yonge extension to Richmond Hill $5.6 billion, and the Eglinton West extension ranging from $1.5 billion if built above ground to $4 billion if below ground.
There is no indication that Ford's plans will include Mayor John Tory's Smart Track plan - a $1.5 billion project that the city has prioritized that involves the construction of new stations along existing GO Transit tracks. There's also no word on plans to increase the capacity of Bloor-Yonge Subway station, which is estimated to cost $1.1 billion.
Both Premier Ford and Ontario Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek are expected to make the announcement at 10:30 AM on Wednesday in Etobicoke. According to CBC News, Mayor Tory told reporters yesterday that he is not aware of what plans are being unveiled, and he does not plan to attend the announcement.
Tory spoke at a news conference yesterday, "What I'm going to do now is await the announcement, see what it says ... then we'll go from there."
City and provincial officials have not completed negotiations regarding Ontario's plan to "upload" the construction and maintenance of the TTC subway.
"After tomorrow's announcement, we'll continue with our conversations with Mayor Tory and the city and move forward with this upload," Transportation Minister Yurek informed reporters at Queen's Park yesterday. "Everything's up for negotiation, but we have a plan that I think people in Toronto are going to be excited about."
Ford has previously noted that the Ontario government intends to implement advanced technology on the Downtown Relief Line that will end up being less expensive than the city's current plans. CBC News has also reported that government officials claim that "automated train operation" (a.k.a. driverless trains) are being seriously considered.
Ford reportedly stated last month, "We are going to build the greatest downtown relief line. As a matter of fact, when they showed me the plan, my jaw dropped. I thought, 'Wow, this is thinking outside the box.'"
According to Yurek, today's TTC subway system "isn't working for the riders." "People aren't able to ride the subway without it being overworked," he said in question period. "For decades, the city of Toronto has been unable to expand the subway network. We're making the way forward to make changes to that."