Miller bids for millions in job-creation budget
Dec 18, 2008 04:30 AM
city hall bureau
Mayor David Miller is urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to provide millions in infrastructure money for Transit City, an initiative he terms “Toronto’s first priority.”
In a letter sent to Harper this week in advance of a January federal budget expected to include an economic stimulus package, Miller points out Toronto councillors voted unanimously to seek $368 million in federal funding to help replace aging streetcars and expand light rail service to the suburbs.
Council is also looking for $6 billion in capital funding to move quickly on building the Sheppard East, Eglinton Crosstown and Finch West LRT lines and Scarborough RT line.
The Harper government has been meeting with leaders of all political stripes to get input on the Jan. 27 budget document. Several quarters have urged Ottawa to bolster infrastructure spending, and Harper is said to be looking for “shovel ready” projects.
TTC chief general manager Gary Webster said yesterday the Sheppard East LRT project is ready to begin next fall. Construction could begin in 2010 on the Eglinton Crosstown and Finch West lines.
Environmental assessment and design work is currently taking place on all three.
“The money from the federal government would help pay the bills and allow us to continue working,” Webster said yesterday, adding that the TTC is also counting on provincial commitments to the projects in the spring budget.
“If we get money flowing to us from the federal government sooner … like in January, then we’d take a second look at Eglinton and Finch and see if we can’t move those schedules forward,” he added.
But Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong questioned the mayor’s emphasis on transit.
“Council last week said they wanted to get the roads backlog cleared, refurbish swimming pools and build community centres.
“Those projects are ready to go. We know where the roads are,” Minnan-Wong said.
“If the federal government is looking for ideas, funding the city’s crumbling infrastructure should be a priority, given the level of neglect.”