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York U bus in jeopardy

Province planning to charge $3 million per kilometre for use of hydro corridor

July 19, 2007 04:54 PM

The province’s attempt to charge the city the equivalent of $3 million per kilometre to use a hydro corridor for a dedicated bus line to York University is nothing short of daylight robbery, a city councillor alleged Wednesday.

The city is in the midst of negotiations with the Ontario Realty Corporation, which is acting on behalf of the province and Hydro One, for a grant to operate a dedicated roadway for buses within the Finch Hydro corridor.

The corporation and hydro have requested $3.9 million for the 10-year easement. And it is estimated that it would cost $5.85 million to acquire a permanent easement on the land.

“It makes no sense for the province to offer to fund the building of light rapid rail across this province and within the City of Toronto and yet charge these fees for the expropriation of the land to actually put the rail in,” Ward 1 (Etobicoke North) Councillor Suzan Hall said.

“I believe the province wants this extension and so in order to have the extension they must come to some kind of an agreement with us and this is exorbitant, it’s like highway robbery.”

The city’s government management committee had recommended approval of the funding.

But council approved a motion by Ward 15 (Eglinton-Lawrence) Councillor Howard Moscoe directing city staff to continue negotiations and, if necessary, to suspend discussions with the corporation on the matter and seek the intervention of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in coming to an agreement.

“If we allow this report to carry, it will push the TTC’s transit plan from the City of Toronto off the Bloor Street viaduct,” Moscoe said in moving his motion. “As a matter of fact, this is a quintessential issue that we have to deal with the province on.”

He noted that the corporation’s fee for the lease of about two kilometres of land through a hydro corridor from Dufferin Street to just beyond Keele Street would work out to about $3 million per kilometre if the city wants to retain the easement following the opening of the new subway line to York University.

“This is outrageous. This will kick the Viagra out of the (Premier Dalton) McGuinty promise to fund public transit lines throughout Ontario and throughout the City of Toronto,” he said.

“If we’re forced into a position of paying $3 million a kilometre, not for the land but for the right of access to a hydro corridor, which is a public facility, it will kill public transit plans for the future. And the premier can’t say on one hand, ‘We’re going to build nine lines through Toronto, we’re going to build lines through the GTA,’ and then in the back door demand $3 million a kilometre in order to do this,” Moscoe said.

He noted the roadway, which will improve the commute between Downsview station and York University, is essential.

“This roadway is vital,” Moscoe said. “It brings 1,500 buses a day into York University and it will save 20 minutes of the trip to the subway station.”

He also noted that once the subway is built, the roadway “will form the beginning of a network that will reach out to Etobicoke in the west and Scarborough in the east because the corridor stretches across the city.”