Doug Ford’s transit plan to be unveiled today

Premier Doug Ford will reveal his plan for nearly $30 billion worth of new transit construction in and around Toronto on Wednesday, one day ahead of his government’s first budget.

The announcement will unveil “the largest infrastructure project in transit in North America,” Ford said Tuesday at an event in Burlington. “It’s going to be $28.5 billion that we’re looking to invest into Ontario to get people moving.”

The plan will include the province’s vision for a new Downtown Relief Line, the Scarborough subway extension, the Yonge subway extension to Richmond Hill and the Eglinton West LRT. The announcement will also indicate how much the province expects the municipal and federal governments to kick in.

According to the latest available estimates, these four projects alone could cost more than $20 billion:

  • Downtown Relief Line: $7.2 billion.
  • Scarborough subway: $3.9 billion.
  • Yonge extension to Richmond Hill: $5.6 billion.
  • Eglinton West extension: ranging from $1.5 billion (if above ground) to $4 billion (if below ground).

The Ford government is pushing for changes to these in-motion projects that city officials warncould increase the cost, slow down construction and waste some of the $224 million already spent on planning and design.

Two other projects that Toronto considers a priority are the construction of new stations along existing GO Transit tracks as part of Mayor John Tory’s Smart Track plan ($1.5 billion) and adding capacity to the crowded Bloor-Yonge subway station ($1.1 billion).

Ford and Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek are scheduled to make the announcement at 10:30 a.m. at GO Transit’s Willowbrook maintenance facility in south Etobicoke. CBC News plans to stream the news conference live on this page.

Tory said Tuesday he doesn’t know what’s being unveiled and won’t be attending.

“What I’m going to do now is await the announcement, see what it says … then we’ll go from there,” Tory told a news conference.

If the province declares that the city must bear some of the costs of the new construction but will not own the subway lines, Tory said, “obviously that’s something we’ll want to discuss.”

The announcement is coming even though city and provincial officials are still in negotiations about the province’s plan to “upload” the construction and maintenance of Toronto’s subway network. The province wants to own the lines but leave the city and Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to operate the subway.

“After tomorrow’s announcement, we’ll continue with our conversations with Mayor Tory and the city and move forward with this upload,” Yurek told reporters at Queen’s Park on Tuesday.

“Everything’s up for negotiation, but we have a plan that I think people in Toronto are going to be excited about.”

Ford has indicated that the province wants to deploy new technology on the Downtown Relief Line but that it will be “less expensive” than the city’s plan. Provincial government officials have told CBC News they are considering “automated train operation” — in other words, driverless trains.

“We are going to build the greatest downtown relief line,” Ford said in the Legislature on March 28. “As a matter of fact, when they showed me the plan, my jaw dropped. I thought, ‘Wow, this is thinking outside the box.'”

The Ford government also wants to extend the Yonge subway line to Richmond Hill on an earlier timeframe than the city prefers, to add two stops to the existing plans for the Scarborough subway, and to bury the Eglinton West LRT extension through Etobicoke, a decision that would more than double the cost of that project.

“This premier’s throwing out all the plans, hundreds of millions of dollars in plans, to start from square one again, so all the planning has to start all over again,” NDP leader Andrea Horwath said at Queen’s Park on Tuesday.

The current TTC subway system “isn’t working for the riders,” Yurek said.

“People aren’t able to ride the subway without it being overworked,” he said in question period. “For decades, the city of Toronto has been unable to expand the subway network. We’re making the way forward to make changes to that.”

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