Ontario Line subway project price tag increases by billions of dollars

Click to play video: 'Ontario Line costs balloon to $27B'
Ontario Line costs balloon to $27B
WATCH: Ontario Line costs balloon to $27B – Jun 21, 2024

The cost of delivering Premier Doug Ford’s signature subway project has ballooned by billions of dollars, Global News can reveal, as construction work in Toronto continues.

A Metrolinx rapid transit project report prepared for late June shows the Ontario Line is now set to cost taxpayers $27.2 billion to build and operate, a 43 per cent increase from two years ago. The project has, so far, cost taxpayers $5 billion in construction costs, with almost $600 million spent between January and April this year.

The Ontario Line, which is set to run from the Ontario Science Centre to Ontario Place, was unveiled by Premier Doug Ford in 2019 as part of a $28.9-billion subway expansion plan.

The route is designed to act as a relief valve for the city’s Yonge/University subway line, offering an alternate way to get from north to south through new neighbourhoods. It broke ground in March 2022, with construction visibly progressing around Toronto and a planned completion date of 2031.

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“This line will be transformative for residents in Toronto reducing crowding on existing subway lines and putting nearly 50,000 jobs within a 45 minute commute,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation said.

“As contracts are awarded for this project, they will continue to be publicly posted. Initial projects costs are generally capital construction costs only.

“The contracts awarded between the November board report and the June board report include cost categories relevant to the entire project as a whole, including 30-year operations and maintenance, infrastructure lifecycle maintenance and property acquisitions.”

When the project was first unveiled by Premier Ford, in 2019, the province pegged the cost of building the line at $10.9 billion, a number the government said was only for construction and did not capture the money needed to run the line for 30 years.

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Then, in 2022, when Infrastructure Ontario began handing out contracts to build and operate the line, the cost rose to between $17 billion and $19 billion.

A contract to design and build southern stations and tunnels on the route came to $6 billion, while northern tunnels were estimated to cost up to $4 billion. The contract for trains, systems and operations was signed for $9 billion.

The latest update has the cost rising again — this time to $27.2 billion.

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Click to play video: 'Premier Ford acknowledges cost of constructing Ontario Line has increased'
Premier Ford acknowledges cost of constructing Ontario Line has increased

The new cost comes after “several critical milestones” for the Ontario Line over the past few months, a Metrolinx report obtained by Global News explains.

In January, a contract was awarded to build tunnels and stations in the Pape Avenue area. A second contract in February was handed out for an elevated guideway for the line and for stations.

A senior government source told Global News the cost increase from $19 billion to $27 billion includes money for wear and tear on the project, as well as funds to cover unexpected lifecycle costs. It also takes into account property acquisition costs to build the subway line and general operating funds over 30 years.

The $27-billion tag also takes into account post-contract contingencies, financing for the public-private contract and early works, according to the source.

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“All budget figures reflect a much broader inclusion criteria than traditional ‘construction costs,’ as they include various contingency accounts, ancillary costs such as property acquisition and capitalized labour, and in some cases (including the Ontario Line), 30 years of operating, maintenance and lifecycle costs,” the Metrolinx report said.

The source said that all major contracts for the Ontario Line had now been awarded.

Early work on several key Ontario Line stations is also already underway. Work has started to prepare Pape Station on Line 2 to have an Ontario Line station built below it, while piling work has started on another station at Queen Street and Spadina Avenue.

“This important milestone marked the first groundbreaking activity supporting the excavation of the first of six deep underground stations in the south portion of the Ontario Line,” the report said.

“Piling has since also started at King – Bathurst and Moss Park with Queen, Corktown and Exhibition close behind.”

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