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Transit slash a Pan Am slam

Miller says province’s budget move ‘beyond disgraceful’

By Kevin Connor and Antonella Artuso

Pan Am Games organizers were promised that all venues would be accessible by rapid transit as part of Toronto’s winning bid, but the province’s latest budget puts an end to that, Mayor David Miller says.

In an effort to save $4 billion, Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals have put the brakes on Transit City, which will delay the Finch, Scarborough, Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit lines — lines needed to access some Pan Am sites.

“The Pan Am Games will be severely hurt. We promised all venues will be on rapid transit. The PASO (Pan American Sporting Organization) will have something to say about this,” Miller said.

When asked if this will be a black eye for Toronto on the world stage he nodded and said, “the Vancouver Olympics were terrific. They spurred the government on to build the infrastructure needed. The Games gave us a deadline.

“(McGuinty) committed these funds only to say a couple of years later the funds aren’t there. You have to be able to count on people’s word. We have been working non-stop on this. It is beyond disgraceful. It’s appalling.”

The delay in the projects is unfortunate, said Bob Nicholson, who worked on the Pan Am bid.

“The reason you bid is to get major projects done. There are different ways to have rapid transit. At the Olympics, from Vancouver to Whistler there was no rapid transit. They had a dedicated lane and that could be an option,” Nicholson said.

The choice of the Pan Am venues was wrong to start with, said Paul Henderson, who has been a Canadian representative for the International Olympic Committee.

“Miller demanded the venues be where he wanted to further his transit dreams on the back of sports. It was all done for Miller who forced various levels of government to build and accelerate the LRT,” Henderson said.

Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne said some Transit City projects will be delayed, but significant transit construction in Toronto is still going forward.

“I really understand he’s frustrated,” Wynne said of Miller. “I’m know that he’s very invested in this and so are we. This is about slowing the pace of investment; it’s not about cancelling it.”

Ontario will proceed as planned with the air rail link, the Spadina subway and the Sheppard LRT, Wynne said.

The minister said the province will ensure that participants and athletes in the Pan Am Games will be able to get to the aquatics centre which was to have been serviced by the Scarborough LRT.

The Eglinton Crosstown was not even scheduled to be completed by 2015, she said.

“What I’m saying to Metrolinx is come back to us with a plan … the $11 billion that was on the table is still on the table, so we’re not taking that away,” Wynne said. “But over the next five years, we’re going to be investing over $4 billion but not $8 billion.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she fears it will be the “Gridlock Games,” and that it will push other planned transit projects throughout the region further back in the priority list.

“I think everyone was really blindsided by this,” Horwath said.




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