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Subways top Mel's wish list

If province offers money, mayor wants extensions

By Nicolaas van Rijn
Toronto Star Staff Reporter
August 30, 1998

Mayor Mel Lastman believes in being prepared … especially if there’s a chance Premier Mike Harris might come around with one or two pre-election goodies.

Take, for example, a subway line or two.

That, say sources in the mayor’s office, was the thinking behind a Lastman request to Toronto Transportation Commission general manager David Gunn for cost figures on expanding Toronto’s subway system north, east and west.

“This is blue-sky thinking,” one source said. “It’s simply a question, if we had the money, what could we do?

“Or, if someone gave us the money, what could we do?”

The mayor has also put his staff to work costing out other big-ticket wish list items - just in case anyone offers to fund them, another source added.

“Social issues, tax breaks, rental housing - you name it, we’re looking at it,” the source said.

While Lastman hasn’t seen Gunn’s report yet - or its $3 billion price tag for expanding the Sheppard and Spadina subway lines - he’s definite about one thing.

“I don’t want to build it - we don’t have any money to build it,” Lastman said yesterday. “We can’t do it without the province.”

Gunn’s report, which Lastman expects to see on his desk tomorrow, provides rough cost figures for three major expansions:

  • $1.3 billion to extend the already-troubled Sheppard subway line by another 5.8 kilometres, from its planned Don Mills Rd. terminus to the Scarborough City Centre;
  • $805 million to push the Sheppard line 4.5 kilometres west from Sheppard-Yonge to a new station for the $1 billion Technodome sports and entertainment complex planned for the old Downsview military base in North York;
  • $1.2 billion to extend the Spadina line 6.8 kilometres north to York University.

“I don’t wait for an accident to happen,” Lastman said yesterday. “I plan for things.

“So if someone comes to me in the future and says, `What can we do for Toronto?’ I want to be ready.”

For now, Lastman will have his hands full trying to come up with the money to finish the 6.4-kilometre Sheppard line, which will run from Yonge St. to Don Mills Rd. when it opens in mid-2002.

Originally priced at a bare-bones $875 million, the cost of the Sheppard line - which is about 35 per cent completed - has already soared to $919.7 million, and there’s no guarantee it won’t rise again.

In his report to Lastman, Gunn recommends that no new subway expansions be undertaken before Toronto comes up with the money to pay for the Sheppard line.