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Jump on Transit City plan or else, David Miller told

By Tess Kalinowski and Robert Benzie
Staff Reporters

Mayor David Miller threatens the future of his own Transit City light rail lines by refusing to get on board a revised provincial plan, says Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne.

“Does he want (the projects) to stop? Because undermining the process can lead to that,” she said, referring to a proposal in which TTC riders will wait longer for shorter lines with fewer stops.

It was the latest salvo in a war of words between the province and the mayor over the deferral of $4 billion in funding for lines on Sheppard, Finch, Eglinton and the Scarborough RT.

The volume went up after Miller wrote Premier Dalton McGuinty Wednesday saying the city would never support a revised Metrolinx plan that cuts the lines and delays their completion to at least 2020 rather than 2016.

While Miller said Thursday he was aware of “a proposal” to reduce the scope of the projects by 22.5 kilometres and 25 stops, he never agreed to it if it meant construction would be delayed.

The revised Metrolinx plan is “a big, massive cut,” he said.

“They’re proposing building little stubs of lines just like happened in 1995. We ended up with just the Sheppard line and, if the Metrolinx proposal goes ahead, we’ll have a subway from Leaside to Forest Hill and that’s a violation of all the people who need transit the most,” he said.

Metrolinx CEO Rob Prichard said Thursday that, while Miller had supported the scaled-back Transit City plan once it became clear the four light rail lines were about $2.5 billion over the $8.15 billion the province originally promised, that was before the March provincial budget pushed the timelines back.

He said there are documents that prove Miller attended meetings where the cuts were discussed, but Prichard would not release them.

Both the province and Metrolinx agreed some sections would have to wait until there was a Metrolinx Investment Strategy to raise more money for transit.

“The city, TTC, Metrolinx and the province all agreed to a phased-in approach, completing the first phase within the $8.15 billion budget given to us and completing the second phase when the resources of the Investment Strategy are available, which we hope will be well before the first phase is completed so there can be a seamless transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2,” said Prichard.

“But it is important to note that the TTC’s cost estimates were more than 25 per cent above the budget, $2.5 billion, and the province and Metrolinx are not prepared to have budget overruns given the province is paying 100 per cent of the cost. If the city wants to spend money beyond the provincial commitment that is very welcome,” he said.

Miller again urged the province to take the city up on its offer to finance the original construction schedule if Queen’s Park paid it back after the five-year period.

In exchange, Toronto would pick up the cost of $80 million to $100 million in financing. That would still be a savings for the city given that it would need to spend about $200 million to buy more buses if the Transit City construction is delayed.

War of words

“I understand he’s disappointed, but this isn’t about the mayor’s personal disappointment. This is about providing service to the residents of the GTA.”

—Ontario Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne

“Metrolinx was created to strengthen regional transportation. The province has affirmed and reaffirmed that commitment repeatedly. The province and Metrolinx are committed to building those five projects, four in Toronto and one in York Region because they make a profound contribution to improve transportation and reduce congestion… . The province is committed to completing all five projects in 10 years but we need the support of the city. In York Region we have the unqualified support of the chair of the region. We’re going to work very hard to finalize the plan with the TTC so they can also proceed with the projects in the plan.”

—Metrolinx CEO Rob Prichard

“Their proposal is to start Finch, only do a part of it and start it in 2015. That’s two elections from now and if they can’t honour a commitment they made in April 2009 - that’s when the premier said that these four lines will be built - how can they possibly credibly suggest deferring these things til 2015 means anything? That’s two governments away, not this government, the one that wins the next election, the one that wins the election after that. And that’s not acceptable.”

—Mayor David Miller

“We worked for a year with (Metrolinx) to make sure the lines would go ahead on schedule and that some of them would be funded from the announced money and some from the Investment Strategy and they were to proceed seamlessly. As mayor I was not prepared to agree to anything except the lines starting as scheduled and a plan to ensure that seamlessly they would proceed.”

—Mayor David Miller

“The mayor was willing to explore phasing as long as they completed the lines that the premier announced, without delaying construction schedule. If Queen’s Park was unable to finish the lines within the announced funding, the Mayor was open to working with them to identify new funding or sources of funding to keep the Transit City moving forward seamlessly. There was never an agreement on any cuts.”

—TTC chair Adam Giambrone