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Big money for transit set to roll next year

Gas tax, provincial funding `solidified’

TTC can now start to look at expansion

Nov. 11, 2005. 08:09 AM

The annual panic over finding the money to maintain the TTC will ease in 2006.

The Toronto Transit Commission wants to spend $572 million on capital items next year, a rise of $394 million over this year. But despite the massive increase next year, things are different: money from the gas tax and infrastructure programs means the cost won’t be carried by Toronto alone.

For 2006, $212 million will be borne by Ottawa and $173 million by Queen’s Park. That leaves $187 million for city council to find, of which it plans to borrow $163.4 million. The big ticket items are replacing worn-out vehicles. The 2006 plan includes $112 million for 150 hybrid (diesel-electric) buses; $41 million for 80 diesel buses and a $111 million down payment on a $755 million order for 232 subway cars to be delivered between 2008 and 2010.

“Everything’s different from last year, it’s totally different,” TTC chief general manager Rick Ducharme said after tabling his proposed 2006 capital budget at city council’s budget advisory committee yesterday.

“Look at the funding,” Ducharme said. “The gas tax, everything is solidified.”

The TTC expects to receive $147.6 million in federal gas tax funds, plus $64.4 million in infrastructure funding. The province is chipping in with $41 million in provincial gas tax money and $132 million from three separate infrastructure programs.

Ducharme said it’s been a difficult task to bring the senior governments on board.

“Starting around 2001 and 2002 was when we first started climbing that hill, first getting the province and then the feds with some money. Now it looks like it is a third (from each), so that’s excellent. That’s where we wanted to go.”

He noted the funding still falls short of what the TTC got before 1995, when the provincial government paid 75 per cent of capital costs. The Mike Harris government cancelled funding after being elected in 1995 and the city has been fighting ever since to get it restored.

With money rolling in now to maintain the existing system, the TTC can now start to look at expansion, Ducharme said.

“Now we’re past the state of good repair funding, are we going to build a subway to Scarborough, are we going to buy low-floor streetcars? We haven’t talked like this for 15 years, so it’s very positive.”