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Stintz: SRT subway a boost for downtown relief line

Jul 17, 2013 12:04:41 PM - thestar.com

TTC chair Karen Stintz says that replacing the Scarborough RT with a subway won’t cost Toronto the Sheppard light rail line or a downtown relief line.

“The downtown relief line will get built,” Stintz told reporters Wednesday morning as city council embarked on a second day of debate about whether the SRT should be replaced by an extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway or the city should stick to its agreement to build an LRT. The debate has at times been tense. (During one exchange Councillor Josh Matlow questioned Mayor Rob Ford over his knowledge of the LRT. Both men grew appeared frustrated and angry over the exchange.)

Calling the subway extension a “key component,” Stintz said that, “Building this extension to Sheppard will improve the functionality of the downtown relief line.”

Asked if she has a deadline, the TTC chair said “we have to know by January if we have a federal partner. If we don’t have a federal partner and we don’t have a provincial partner, then an LRT is still on the books.”

Stintz, who helped bring the subway argument back to council earlier this year, also denied any concern about the SRT subway robbing the Sheppard LRT of $333 million in federal dollars — a move that would cast serious doubt over the viability of that project.

She said the mayor was clear on Tuesday that the Sheppard LRT funding won’t be siphoned off for a subway. After raising the possibility of taking that money for the SRT, Ford later stated that the Sheppard LRT funding was safe.

Stintz, who is expected to compete with Ford for the mayor’s seat in the next municipal election, also echoed his comments that there will be no subway if the federal government doesn’t contribute and the province fails to pony up less than the $1.8 billion it originally promised to convert the SRT to an LRT.

The protracted and often emotional debate at council has seen many councillors at odds with their traditional colleagues on the left, centre and right of the city government. Even the mayor who is famously anti-tax, has agreed to a property tax levy to help pay for a Scarborough subway.

Left-leaning councillors Joe Mihevc and Paula Fletcher, who typically oppose the mayor’s subway agenda, have both spoken in support of the Bloor-Danforth extension.

Ford’s usual ally, public works chair Denzil Minnan-Wong has dismissed it as a vote-buying exercise, saying there are too many questions about the funding and impact on the transit network of subway for him to support it.

When the debate began on Tuesday, Ford was believed to have subway support in the bag. But his suggestion that the Sheppard LRT money might be diverted, along with his fumbling of questions about the SRT running on the road, appeared to cast doubt on his position among some otherwise supportive councillors.

Although she said she wants to pursue the opportunity to explore a subway, councillor Ana Bailão said, “I will not support anything that is going to jeopardize the Sheppard LRT, the Finch LRT or any other projects.”

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam warned councillors that when it comes to competing for $70 billion in federal infrastructure money to pay for a Bloor-Danforth subway extension, Toronto will be vying with Calgary and Lac-Megantic, that have both seen their infrastructure devastated this summer.

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