London city staff issue transit recommendations for $370M in senior government funding

A London Transit bus crosses the CP Rail crossing on Richmond Street, June 14, 2017.
A London Transit bus crosses the CP Rail crossing on Richmond Street, June 14, 2017. Matthew Trevithick / 980 CFPL

London city staff have unveiled a list of 19 potential transit projects that could be eligible for more than $370 million in senior government funding.

The bill is being split at the provincial and federal level, with $204 million coming from Ottawa and another $170 million coming from Ontario.

READ MORE: London receives $204 million in federal funding for public transit

The list comes after Mayor Ed Holder announced in his State of the City address that he wants to pitch a transportation project to the province in 60 days. Holder’s proposed project could include several infrastructure elements from a contentious $500-million bus rapid transit (BRT) plan.

The first five projects on the list above are what staff call an “unbundling” of London’s current Rapid Transit Initiative and have been renamed to better represent the locations in which they’ll be situated.

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The Downtown Loop frames Dundas Place, circling along Queens Avenue, King Street, Ridout Street and Wellington Street. The Wellington Road Gateway takes transit riders from the city’s downtown core to just south of White Oaks Mall. The East London Link creates a route between Fanshawe College’s east and downtown campuses. The North and West connections would connect downtown to Masonville Mall and to Wonderland Road and Oxford Street, respectively.

The five routes share a combined price tag of $500 million, but the list allows councillors to decide which components of the Rapid Transit Initiative will see the light of day.

READ MORE: Ed Holder opposes bus rapid transit during London mayoral campaign launch

Holder, who campaigned against BRT, told 980 CFPL that he’s confident he’ll be able to support a number of the projects included.

He added that the list from city staff strays from the take-it-or-leave-it approach that was previously presented.

“By having broken down this project the way that we have, we’re trying to find ways that the majority of council can come together to say: ‘This is in the best interest of the majority of Londoners,'” Holder said.

“One size fits all doesn’t always work in every situation.”

Deputy Mayor and Ward 4 Coun. Jesse Helmer announced his support for bus rapid transit in an open letter published in May of last year.

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While the list presents BRT in segmented components, Helmer said different circumstances call for a different direction.

“In the previous council, the common ground was that we could agree on doing the entire BRT plan. I think everyone knows that’s not the case anymore,” Helmer said.

“We have to look at the government we’ve got provincially, the government we have federally [and] the council that we have here locally. We’re going to have to make decisions about what we all agree on in terms of priorities.”

READ MORE: New London Transit Commission HQ a matter of when and how, not if: Coun. Phil Squire

Attached to the report from city staff was a list of 11 “screened projects”. These projects included a number of road widening and extensions, with the most extensive of items being the renewal of the London Transit Commission’s headquarters on Highbury Avenue.

While these items have been not been ruled out of the city’s Transportation Master Plan, which extends until 2030, city staff have deemed them not ready to be presented within the current transportation funding window.

READ MORE: Future of London’s bus rapid transit on the line at March 20 public meeting

The public will have its say on what items stay on the list on March 20. The following week, councillors will debate the potential projects before reaching a final decision.

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By the end of the month, the city will submit the selected projects to the province for senior government funding approval.