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London could lose $160 million in road work savings if BRT is scrapped

A rendering of the bus rapid transit system on Richmond Street at Grosvenor Street. The rendering may not be final.
A rendering of the bus rapid transit system on Richmond Street at Grosvenor Street. The rendering may not be final. The City of London

While many council candidates campaigned against the current bus rapid transit (BRT) plan, we’re learning more about the financial impact of cancelling the project.

Under the current plan, some BRT work would coincide with other required road construction. The road work, which will be paid for by development charges, is estimated to cost $290 million.

Speaking on London Live with Devon Peacock Wednesday afternoon, outgoing deputy mayor Paul Hubert said when the BRT costs are also considered, the project offers a net benefit that would be eliminated if the BRT plan is scrapped.

“The net new cost to development charges is $160 million, so let me translate: you want to buy a new home in London? It’s going to cost you more because that $160 million has to come out of the development charges,” he said.

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Hubert noted there may be other costs, or savings lost, if the plan is dramatically overhauled.

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“A lot of that engineering work, the environmental assessment, obviously the land acquisition, all of that would change,” he said. “We’re not going to go down Richmond Street. We’re going to go down Talbot, for argument’s sake. That’s a new plan, so you have to go back to ‘Go’ and you don’t collect $200, you have to pay that $200 again.”

But councillor-elect Shawn Lewis thinks a major overhaul is necessary.

“The residents of Ward 2 are not supportive of this plan, not the current plan,” Lewis said. “It needs, at the minimum, a significant rework, and if a significant rework were to happen, I would still want to go back to the people and ask them what they think of it before making a decision.”

READ MORE: London mayoral candidates talk transportation during debate

Mayor-elect Ed Holder ran on a campaign against BRT, but would not commit to scrapping the plan entirely following his election win. He has said he’s keen to work with council to settle on a transit plan that both city hall and residents support.

Previously, Holder said he wanted to spend the funding from the provincial and federal governments on other transit projects.

“Ask the federal government, and they will tell you that their funds for transportation infrastructure are not tied to BRT,” Holder said. “The new provincial government has said that they will not tie any transit infrastructure funding to BRT.”

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The $500-million BRT plan is currently in the environmental assessment phase.

READ MORE: Potential heritage impacts push pause on London’s bus rapid transit plans

While the city’s portion of the BRT project is not to exceed $130 million, the upper levels of government have currently committed $370 million to support transportation initiatives in London.