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Subway to grow for 25 years: Pitfield

Would construct 2 kilometres a year

Proposes halting St. Clair right-of-way

Oct. 19, 2006. 01:00 AM

As mayor of Toronto, Jane Pitfield says she would keep the Gardiner Expressway in place, halt the St. Clair transit right-of-way in its tracks, and push to build two kilometres of subway line each year for 25 years.

For good measure, she promised to clear up $300 million in repair backlogs on city streets over the next 10 years.

Pitfield outlined her transit and transportation policy yesterday on the torn-up sidewalk at St. Clair Ave. W. and Bathurst St., where the Toronto Transit Commission is building an exclusive streetcar right-of-way in the road.

She voted for the project, but now says she’d halt work west of Bathurst to consult further with the community.

Pitfield also pledged to give the public a say on the future of the Gardiner Expressway — which she claims Mayor David Miller would like to tear down.

Miller has said he only favours taking down the expressway if there’s a solid business plan in place, but “there’s no money right now” to do the job.

“I will defend the Gardiner until the residents of this city can make the decision” whether to keep or raze it, Pitfield said. That means holding a “ballot-box referendum,” she said.

“The majority of the people in the amalgamated city want to keep it there. We have more urgent priorities to address. And if we start to take the Gardiner down, it’s going to become the No. 1 capital project in this city; we won’t get anything else done.

“I say let’s expand public transit first, let’s look at addressing our roads backlog and let’s start building a subway.”

Pitfield said her proposal to build two kilometres of subway line each year would cost about $100 million per kilometre, plus $50 million for a new station. That’s the pace of building from 1953 to 1985, she said.

But Pitfield’s estimate of $100 million per kilometre of subway line is low: The cost of the 6.2-kilometre line to York University is tabbed at up to $1.5 billion, or $242 million per kilometre, including stations. At that cost, Pitfield’s pledge would commit the city to $484 million in subway spending each year, rather than her estimate of $250 million. But she said in an interview that costs should decline if the city embarks on a long-term, continuous building program.

Pitfield — who says she’ll present an overall plan for funding her proposals later in the election campaign — wouldn’t specify where the money would come from to build the new subway line.

She suggested private-sector money could be tapped, such as selling naming rights for some stations to big companies.

She also said there needs to be better regional co-ordination of transportation and transit policy, and she criticized Miller for spurning meetings with fellow mayors in Greater Toronto.