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Streetcar plan soars to $95M

Dec. 12, 2005. 05:37 AM

The cost of the controversial St. Clair streetcar project, now on hold due to legal challenges, has escalated to $95 million from $65 million.

The increase is due to $30 million in last-minute costs that were presented to the policy and finance committee on Nov. 29, and sent on for final approval of city council last week.

The new items include: $15 million to bury hydro wires; $7 million for new streetlight poles; $5 million for road resurfacing and $3 million for sidewalk reconstruction.

The proposed new spending generated heat at Friday’s city council debate on the city’s 2006 capital budget. Questioning is expected to continue today.

Councillor Mike Del Grande (Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt) said the timing of the new spending is highly suspect.

“This is sneaky,” said Del Grande. “It’s underhandedness. This is why people from Scarborough, the area I represent, have no confidence in the politicians down here.”

Del Grande said the case will only feed cynicism that the central area of the city receives preferential treatment.

“People in the suburbs get very upset with downtown Toronto, the centre of the universe, and all the money’s spent here. And they do things in an underhanded, family compact kind of way.”

Councillor Joe Mihevc, whose ward includes part of the new streetcar line, denied anyone was sneaking things through.

“It’s a work in progress,” said Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s West). “What’s sneaky? It went through a TTC review and it went to policy and finance committee.”

Mihevc said he didn’t know until two weeks ago that the project was expected to cost $30 million more.

He argued it makes sense to schedule burying of hydro wires, and road and sidewalk work as part of the construction on the new 6.8 kilometre-long streetcar line.

The project has been fought by residents and merchants who worry it will hurt traffic flow and cause parking problems.

A three-judge panel of the Divisional Court ruled in October that the city had violated the Planning Act in the way it had handled the project.

The city challenged the ruling.

The court ruled that the case should go to a new panel of judges to be heard again, but opponents of the project are in court asking that the original decision be allowed to stand.

Meanwhile, no construction on the project can begin until the legal issues are resolved.