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What will it cost?

Waterfront plan’s price tag starts at $1.8 billion and climbs from there

By Paul Moloney
Toronto Star City Hall Bureau

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Revamping Union Station, above, with increased GO train capacity, a new bus terminal and a second subway platform would cost $168 million.

Big-ticket items in Toronto’s newly christened vision for a massive, 10-year redevelopment of the city’s 46-kilometre waterfront come in at $1.8 billion to $2.5 billion.

The tally is for public infrastructure projects that in many cases have long been discussed but never acted on.

And that’s just for starters.

It doesn’t include the cost of smaller projects such as new green spaces, bandshells and public squares. Also excluded is assets that would be needed if Toronto wins the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The biggest project by far is dismantling the Gardiner Expressway, which the vision document says is essential to reconnecting the city to the waterfront.

The report was unveiled by Mayor Mel Lastman Wednesday in the company of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Premier Mike Harris.

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Dismantling the elevated Gardiner Expressway,above, and replacing it with a below-ground traffic corridor would cost up to $1 billion.

Thee two senior political leaders pledged to look closely at sharing the costs of the myriad projects outlined in the report.

“Whether we do it or not, I don’t know,” said East Toronto Councillor Tom Jakobek, the city’s budget chair. “What is impressive to me is that all three people were standing together, and that’s a good start.

“I want to be optimistic, because I’ve seen the waterfront messed up too many times.”

Demolishing the 8-kilometre elevated Gardiner would run about $240 million, but that assumes no new roads at or below ground to replace it. The price tag rises to $1 billion to replace the Gardiner from Dufferin St. to Yonge St. with a new below-ground expressway, partly in a ditch and partly covered. Cost estimates were supplied by senior city officials.

“The ultimate vision for the Gardiner is over a 10-year period the whole thing should go one way or the other,” said chief city planner Paul Bedford. “One day, that thing shouldn’t be there.”

Revamping Union Station to increase GO train capacity would relieve some of the pressure on downtown traffic, as would building the long-debated Front St. extension, Bedford said.

The $130 million extension from Bathurst St. to Strachan Ave., to improve commuter flow “is very much a necessity,” he said.

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Projected cost for housing in port lands and West Don Lands, formerly known as Ataratiri, above, is $500 million.

Changes to Union Station clock in at $168 million - $100 million to increase GO train capacity, $58 million for a second subway platform and $10 million for a new bus terminal.

“I’m pleased to see a prime minister, a premier and the mayor of the City of Toronto in one place. I’ve never seen that before,” said Rick Ducharme, chief general manager of the Toronto Transit Commission. “People say, `Where’s the money?’ Well, if they’re standing there saying they’re willing to look at it, give it time.”

A high-speed rail link speeding travellers from Union to Pearson International Airport in 30 minutes carries a $250 million price tag.

“If you go to most world cities,” Bedford said, “you have that option. London’s the best example. You can go from Heathrow to Paddington Station in 15 minutes.”

The report calls for a full range of housing choices affordable to all citizens, which means 10,000 new affordable units, said Councillor Jack Layton, city council’s driving force on housing issues.

The cost: $500 million.

Layton (Don River) said the report’s vision of developing massive underutilized tracts of publicly owned land in the port lands and West Don Lands (formerly known as Ataratiri), requires at least that much affordable housing.

“You can’t do a development of so much land without having affordable housing,” he said. “Otherwise, it would become an entire part of the city exclusively for those who have (money).”

The report envisions a streetcar line spanning the entire waterfront, from Etobicoke Creek to the Rouge River. The TTC already operates waterfront lines in Etobicoke, along Queen’s Quay in the central city and Queen St. E. in the Beaches.

To fill in gaps would require about 20 kilometres of new line, costing $425 million, mostly along Kingston Rd. and Lawrence Ave. E. in Scarborough, said deputy general manager Lynn Hilborn.

Smaller projects include: $60 million for the Western Beaches storage tunnel to divert runoff and clean the waters off Sunnyside and $35 million for a marsh at the mouth of the Don River.

The marsh would not only support flora and fauna but also act to draw pollution from the river before it empties into the lake.

Layton said there will be justifiable skepticism about whether the three governments come up with the cash.

“Is this just a bunch of politicians getting a photo op, or are they really going to do something? That’s a fair question. It’s up to all of us to make sure something really does happen.”

Bedford was optimistic.

“There have been all kinds of schemes over the years and they’ve always fallen apart. There hasn’t been the commitment of the levels of government … that appears to be there … That’s what’s key about it.”




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