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TTC chair demands answers on Scarborough subway plan

Sep 6, 2013 1:04:07 PM - thestar.com

TTC chair Karen Stintz has fired off a terse letter to Metrolinx demanding immediate assurances that the TTC won’t be on the hook for any of the costs of building Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray’s shorter Scarborough subway.

In the Friday letter to Metrolinx chair Rob Prichard, Stintz says the TTC needs to study Murray’s plan to replace the aging SRT with a subway on the same route. She wants the confirmation of costs and timelines before the TTC board meets in two weeks.

Murray unilaterally announced his plan on Wednesday with no warning to Mayor Rob Ford or Stintz. He said he wasn’t prepared to wait on the city or Ottawa any longer — that the province would move ahead on the subway with the $1.4 billion it has committed to the project.

Ford applauded the move and immediately declared it a victory.

But Stintz says Murray’s proposal fails the city because it doesn’t connect with the planned Sheppard LRT, has too few stops and requires the shutdown of the SRT for at least three years.

In her letter Friday, she asks Metrolinx to confirm that the province will pay to bus 15 million TTC riders a year through the SRT closure and another unspecified closure of the Bloor-Danforth subway between Warden and Kennedy stations.

Of “overriding importance,” writes Stintz, is the status of the agreement between the city, Metrolinx and the TTC. She wants Metrolinx to confirm that it stands by the original master agreement, which includes an LRT to replace the SRT.

It’s a critical point. Council decided in July it wants a subway instead of the LRT for Scarborough. But its decision was conditional on finding enough money for a longer TTC-designed version of the subway. If the city doesn’t come up with the $2.3 billion that subway was estimated to cost by Sept. 30, council said it would revert to the original LRT agreement.

When it voted for the subway, city councillors had assumed the province would pay $1.8 billion toward the subway — the same budget that had been allotted to the LRT. But immediately following the vote, the province reduced its commitment to $1.4 billion, leaving the city to come up with $900 million from the federal government to build the subway.

Despite a letter from Ford, asking Ottawa to help, the federal Conservative government hasn’t agreed to contribute.

Murray says he’s certain the province can extend the Danforth subway to the Scarborough City Centre for $1.4 billion, with a stop at Lawrence Ave. His plan requires that Kennedy Station be rebuilt to accommodate the tighter turns on the SRT route and the terminus for the Eglinton LRT.

Stintz is demanding Metrolinx confirm the breakdown of costs and timelines and, that any overruns be covered by the province.

She also wants Metrolinx, an arms-length agency of the Ontario Liberal government, to outline the impacts of the new subway plan on the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT that is also supposed to run into the relocated Kennedy Station.

In addition, she wants assurances of the TTC’s role in the design, construction and operation the subway and, the approvals the province will require from the city on the plan.

It isn’t clear whether council will take another vote on the matter when it meets next in October.

But Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, like other Scarborough councillors, is happy with Murray’s plan.

“I would hope in the end that my colleagues from other parts of Toronto understand and respect the judgment of the councillors of Scarborough. For many of these councillors this is new. I’ve been immersed in this for 30 years. Come on guys, understand where we’re coming from and understand too that in the end the ultimate goal is to fulfill the official plan of the city of Toronto,” he said on Friday.

Kelly said he doesn’t care if the Sheppard East LRT is ever built — one day the Sheppard subway will loop right into the Bloor-Danforth line at Kennedy, he told the Star.

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