Toronto City Council has directed staff to begin the transit project assessment process for the Downtown Relief Line
The move marks the next phase in a project that could see subways connecting the downtown to the east end with a line potentially running in part along Carlaw Avenue.
Wednesday’s decision comes after Mayor John Tory emphasized the need for more provincial government funding for the proposed subway line.
“I am confident that this relief line, the south in particular which we are getting on with first, and the north which we will beginning work on if the report is approved, is going to be supported by city council,” Mayor John Tory said in a press conference at Pape station Wednesday morning.
The line was originally proposed to run along Pape Avenue but was altered to run underneath Carlaw Avenue.
The change was made due to the higher density of Carlaw Avenue where the line would travel down a mixed-use street with mid-rise buildings, including residential, retail and offices.
The Ontario government committed $150 million last year to advance the planning and design work for the project but has yet to agree to provide the funding necessary for the construction of the line.
“As we saw last week, our colleagues in York Region supported the province funding the Relief Line … and will join with us in making that request to the government of Ontario to fund that line,” he said.
Tory said he spoke with numerous commuters who told him that transit relief and solutions can’t come fast enough as the subway system, especially Line 1, runs at or over capacity.
“It gives people another way to get to and from the downtown without having to go through what has become a real bottleneck for the subway service, namely at Yonge and Bloor,” Tory said.
“We have to get on with this work and city council will hopefully authorize that today if we’re going to have this Yonge Relief Line in place before we get to even worse capacity problems as we get through the 2020s.”
Tory said the province has been a “good partner” when it comes to transit projects in the past and the present – highlighting the $150 million commitment – but that it needs to make the commitment to actually fund the building of the projects.
“To be perfectly candid, without a provincial contribution and frankly having been denied the opportunity to raise our own money through road tolls from the very same government of Ontario, we cannot make it a reality to get this Relief Line built,” Tory said.
“We cannot do it on the backs of property tax payers alone – a multi-billion large-scale transformative project. Property tax dollars were never meant, by themselves, to fund huge projects like this and nor should they have to.
“Multi-billion dollar projects are the domain of all three governments, in partnership together.”
Tory said he has the support of the federal government and now “it’s up to the province to give us the commitment we need and give that statement they have been reluctant to make.”
Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca responded to Tory’s strong comments on the project in a statement released Wednesday.
“Mayor Tory just can’t take yes for an answer. We are the only government that has come to the table with planning money for the Downtown Relief Line – we’ve invested $150-million for Relief Line planning and design work which is nearly three times the amount the City has committed,” he said, adding the province previously committed $55 million in funding for planning work on the Yonge North line.
“Despite these investments, we have yet to see the city actually confirm its own capital contributions on these projects.”
Del Duca said the Ontario government had invested in more than 70 per cent of rapid transit projects in Toronto that are either completed, under construction or soon to be underway.
“Our government has invested more in transit in Toronto than any other government in the province’s history. We have single-handedly invested more than 70% of the funding for rapid transit projects in Toronto that have recently been completed, are under construction or will soon be underway.
“Our government has invested more in transit in Toronto than any other government in the province’s history,” he said, adding that starting in 2019 they will be increasing transit funding through an enhancement to the existing gas tax program that would double the city’s share from two cents per litre to four cents by 2021.
“We’ve proven time and time again that we remain steadfast in our commitment to Toronto transit.
“We will continue to work with the federal government and Toronto to determine how federal and City infrastructure commitments can leverage Ontario’s historic infrastructure investments to fund new projects.”
With files from David Shum and Nick Westoll