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TTC puts Sheppard East LRT on chopping block

By Jonathon Jenkins
and Don Peat

Rob Ford’s choice as transit boss wants to pull the emergency brake on building the Sheppard East light rail line.

“Yes, there is no question that we want to be making smart decisions around transit investment,” Councillor Karen Stintz said Tuesday, one day after being confirmed as the mayor-elect’s nominee to chair the Toronto Transit Commission.

Ford campaigned on a promise to convert the Transit City Sheppard LRT into a subway and is already pressuring the province — which is putting up all the money for the construction of Sheppard and other Transit City lines — to switch gears.

“Mayor(-elect) Ford was very clear in his campaign and the people in Scarborough were very clear in how they voted,” Stintz said. “I think we do need to take that seriously and adjust our plan as we can.”

The TTC — under the direction of Metrolinx, the provincial transit planning agency — has already spent some $130 million on preparing Sheppard for construction, as well as ordering trains and boring machines.

“If city council and the TTC make a decision that would say they don’t want to work with us to complete these projects, then all of those costs will have to be taken into account,” the province’s transportation minister, Kathleen Wynne said. “But I don’t know exactly what the cost would be to get out of any of those contracts. But we’ve got $1.3billion already committed in contracts.”

Premier Dalton McGuinty said the province and city had “some common ground ” but stressed there’s no new money for transit beyond the $8 billion the province has offered for Transit City, over the next 12 years.

“I will say with respect to money that we have no more. There’s a certain amount that we have allotted for the Transit City project,” McGuinty said.

In March, the province announced it was delaying half of the Transit City investment, which sparked a furious reaction from outgoing Mayor David Miller, who has championed the project from its inception in 2007.

—Files from Antonella Artuso