Toronto has invested millions of dollars to repair, improve and expand the city’s public transit system over the past year but the timeline for federal funding used to help cover some of the costs is nearing a close and $121 million could be left on the table if the deadline isn’t met.
“When the fund was announced last summer, we knew we were embarking on an ambitious schedule of repair, renewal, enhancement and expansion of the TTC,” Mayor John Tory told reporters at city hall on Tuesday.
“But the federal government did require cities, including Toronto, to spend this money within two years and there’s a limit as to what percentage of the money can be spent in the second year.”
Toronto was allocated $856 million in federal funding in August 2016 as part of the Trudeau government’s $3.4 billion Public Transit Infrastructure Fund.
The guidelines had stipulated that all projects were required to be complete by either March 31, 2018, or March 31, 2019, with a maximum of 40 per cent of the program money spent in the final year.
The funding plan required municipalities to match the federal contribution by 50 per cent. However, if the projects are not complete by the deadline, cities would be responsible for 100 per cent of the project costs.
A public transit infrastructure report to be delivered to the city’s executive committee said the deadline cannot be met and is requesting the federal government extend the deadline to March 31, 2020.
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“A little over a year later, we now find ourselves in a situation as do other cities across the country where cities are grappling with the tight deadline as we work to deliver on the much-need projects, and of course we do not want to leave this money on the table,” Tory said.
“So we’re asking the federal government for an extension, as I understand are others, and we hope they accept this request so we can continue to responsibly do this work and make this city’s transit system strong, more reliable and more modern and accessible.”
Tory said that if the extension isn’t granted, certain projects may have to be shelved.
“If we don’t, it means we may have to try to telescope some of the timeframe, we have to exclude some phases of some of these projects,” Tory said.
“So, I can’t give a list and say, ‘This won’t happen or that won’t happen,’ if we don’t get the extension. Our objective at this stage is to get the extension.”
Tory said part of the problem is logistical as it takes time to procure new public transit vehicles, for example.
Since the funding was announced last year, the Toronto Transit Commission has allocated the money towards the purchase of new buses, subway and streetcar track work, subway station improvements and vehicle retrofits.
“If your grandmother left you $10,000 tomorrow and said you can do some renovations to your house, but they had to be done in 30 days, if you think about the task that is involved in going out and finding a contractor, deciding what renovations you want to do, getting the contractor on board and finishing the work in 30 days, people would find that to be a very difficult challenge,” Tory said.
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